Threat Of Large-Scale Raids Intimidating Connecticut's Immigrant Communities | Connecticut Public Radio

Threat Of Large-Scale Raids Intimidating Connecticut's Immigrant Communities

Jul 15, 2019

It appears Connecticut -- along with the rest of the country -- was spared massive ICE raids over the weekend that had been promised by President Trump. But advocates for immigrants' rights say the administration's stance is still having a marked effect.

According to Enelsa Diaz, managing attorney for Great Hartford Legal Aid, the constant threat of raids and deportation has put undocumented residents and their families on edge.

"People are absolutely fearful, and people are afraid to come out, they're afraid to seek help," she told Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live.

Diaz said in fact many undocumented people have become so fearful, they are reluctant to pursue legal channels that might allow them to stay in the country.

"Even when they have a legal consultation, and they're told they may might have some relief available to them, some are afraid to even put their name in the system," she said. "They recognize and understand that by filing an application, if they don't have an order of removal pending, that it is now alerting officials to their presence in the country."

Diaz said Greater Hartford Legal Aid has developed what's called a "standby guardianship tool". This legally allows undocumented parents to assign a designated guardian for their U.S. citizen children.

It is part of the state's Family Preparedness Plan, a way for parents to make choices about how their children are cared for in the event they are deported. Governor Ned Lamont recently reaffirmed his commitment to that support.

"We are welcoming state," he said on Friday in Bridgeport. "And that’s what makes America a shining city on a hill. And we are not going to let anybody in Washington compromise that.”

Meanwhile, Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal says he’s sponsoring legislation to block immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals, courthouses and places of worship.

Announcing the legislation, Blumenthal said that the concept of large-scale ICE raids does not represent American values.

The intent of his bill is to make current ICE regulations, that immigration enforcement actions cannot be performed in certain sensitive locations -- such as houses of worship -- legally enforceable.

It also widens the scope of those locations to include courthouses. Some in the legal system have complained that ICE enforcement actions at courthouses are preventing people from seeking legal redress for crimes including domestic violence.

“Sensitive spaces and locations are protected," said Blumenthal. "But the legislation I’ve introduced is absolutely necessary to make sure that those policies are enforceable against an agency that may be out of control, with agents that may be rogue. We need to give those policies enforcement teeth and make those policies mandatory.”