The United States Court House building in Hartford is home to an office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, which has recently been directed by President Donald Trump and his administration to carry out mass raids and deportations in major cities of undocumented immigrants.
Just several hundred feet from the court house doors, Alok Bhatt, a coordinator with the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, told a small crowd Monday that this isn’t the way toward a better country.
“For us, it’s not just about prioritizing criminals over families,” he said. “It’s about abolishing ICE, it’s about dismantling systemic forms of violence against immigrant communities and communities of color.”
Bhatt stood with state and local leaders, as well as other immigration advocates, to denounce Trump’s order—it was initially supposed to go into effect this weekend, but the president said he would postpone it for another two weeks.
The Pew Research Center estimated that there were more than 120,000 people living in Connecticut without legal status. There are about 10.7 million undocumented residents throughout the country, many of whom live in major cities.
U.S. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined immigrant rights supporters outside the court house. He said immigration policies that separate parents from children, which can happen when ICE detains someone living here, are “un-American.”
“The mass raids would be a repeat of family separation on the border—tearing children away from their parents,” he said. “The terror he has imposed on these families targets the children.”
He also said that his Republican colleagues in Congress are yielding to president’s “threats and bullying” if they allow this to happen.
Blumenthal said Democratic legislators are willing to engage in discussions about immigration reform “that ensures fairness and due process and, yes, border security. We want border security, but there also must be a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who now live in the shadows.”
Some states and cities have taken a stand against the federal government’s enforcement of immigration laws. Most recently, Gov. Ned Lamont sigend into law an amendment to the Trust Act, which places limits on the kinds of situations in which local and state police can detain someone for ICE.
It’s designed to prevent undocumented immigrants from being deported if they seek help from police or come in contact with law enforcement through other assistance agencies or organizations.
Ellen Mandelberg, of Simsbury, stood with supporters Monday, holding a sign that read “Never Again”—it was a reference to her parents, who fled Nazi Germany and came to the United States as refugees. She empathizes with people today who are fleeing to this country from dangerous situations.
If ICE does take more action in Connecticut, Mandelberg said immigration rights’ advocates will be prepared.
“We have incredible people organizing on the ground to help people right now, and there are resources that will be available in case things do happen, in case these threats do come through,” she said. “There will be deportation defense networks, there are all kinds of groups, and I think we’re lucky to live in Connecticut.”