Billed by a Latino newspaper as “one of the most controversial measures enacted by the city’s Common Council”, an agreement between Danbury, Conn., and the Department of Homeland Security for that municipality to join the criticized 287 (g) program is finally going into effect after extensive debate.
Under the agreement, which at least 66 local law enforcement agencies nationwide have joined, two Danbury Police detectives will be trained by DHS to enforce immigration laws. The Associated Press reported, the agreement has already resulted in immigrants’ moving away from the southern Connecticut city.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says the agreement will function under new rules set by the Obama administration, which supposedly would prevent local officers from going after non-criminal undocumented immigrants and those who commit minor infractions, like traffic violations.
According to the Tribuna Connecticut newspaper, Boughton said:
“The revised program was not created to cater to either of the extreme sides of this issue.
“It will not pick up the (day laborers) at Kennedy Park, nor will it turn a blind eye to the legal status of someone who robs a bank.
“This program caters to the 70 percent of the population that wants a safer community, whether they were born here or not and are here legally or illegally.”
The news generated mistrust among the numerous immigrants in the city.
“Even with the new changes, I still fear racial profiling,” Luis Bautista, president of a local Ecuadorian group, told Tribuna.
The queasiness has historical roots. In 2006, local police posing as civilians pretended to hire day laborers gathered at Kennedy Park and then arrested them. The case led to a lawsuit –still pending– against the city and its police.
To some, the new agreement “is still vague enough to allow law enforcement agencies to use the partnership in ways other than how it was intended,” reported local newspaper The News-Times.
“I think there is a danger here of taking ICE at its word,” said Ari Holtzblatt, a Yale Law School student representing the group of illegal immigrants who came to be known as the Danbury 11.
[ Immigrants and their advocates remain unconvinced about ICE partnership – The News-Times ]
According to The A.P., some stores that were owned by immigrants already show “For Rent” signs in their windows, and sales for those remaining have dropped sharply. The mayor denied there was a link between 287 (g) and the departures, blaming them instead on the economic crisis.
A local news blogger called the statement “dishonest,” saying Boughton “laughably suggests that there hasn’t been a noticeable decline in immigrants leaving the city AND those who left, took off mainly because of the economy (as opposed to his anti-immigrant policies…)”