In a historic triumph for human rights and civil liberties, Connecticut unanimously passed the first statewide policy to counter the profoundly flawed Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. Under the Trust and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, Connecticut's immigrant communities can remain intact, enjoy protection from prejudiced policing, and participate in upholding peace in their communities. Furthermore, Connecticut now assumes a leadership role in immigration reform and resisting pervasive state surveillance.
S-Comm essentially transforms state and local law enforcement into automated immigration checkpoints. Upon arrest, a detained persons' fingerprints and criminal background, if any, are shared with federal agencies to cross-check against Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) immigration database.
If the feds find an 'individual of interest', the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sends local police a detainer request to hold that individual while ICE determines whether or not to initiate deportation proceedings.
Though described by ICE as an initiative to remove dangerous undocumented criminals, S-Comm separates hard-working immigrant families and immerses entire communities in fear. Profiling, mistaken identity, and disproportionate pursuit of low-level perpetrators undermine trust between immigrant communities and local police. Studies indicate that the fear of deportation significantly decreases community cooperation with legitimate law enforcement investigations.
Additionally, S-Comm enables the type of prejudiced policing infamously observed in East Haven, CT.
The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA), primary advocates of the TRUST Act, introduced the bill early this year to protect the rights of vulnerable communities and set a consistent standard for honoring ICE detainers. Lack of interpretive clarity created a situation in which various localities executed S-Comm protocols differently. Judicial Marshals were also able intervene and advance deportation cases initiated under S-Comm. However, according to the TRUST Act:
No law enforcement officer who receives a civil immigration detainer with respect to an individual who is in the custody of the law enforcement officer shall detain such individual pursuant to such civil immigration detainer
Although exceptions to this proscriptive provision include convicted felons, persons with prior removal orders, and "public safety" risks, CT's TRUST Act will help secure the safety of innocents and low-priority individuals. The strong, almost anomalous bipartisan support for the TRUST Act demonstrates that Connecticut's activists, advocates, and lawmakers will not stand for the further marginalization of its diverse and active immigrant communities.
Though the TRUST Act can insulate Connecticut immigrants from prejudiced policing, S-Comm ultimately catalyzes a series of policies and practices that will jeopardize the freedoms of everyone in the United States.
Revelations in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents expose the FBI's obscure intention to permanently establish S-Comm and other biometric-based programs in its Next Generation Initiative (NGI). While this may foreshadow some disturbing dystopian scenarios, it also signifies that the fight cannot end with just a few victories. Connecticut and all states must continue the struggle for human rights, civil liberties, and justice!