Eugene Driscoll, News-Times (Danbury, Ct.), Apr. 18
DANBURY — Mayor Mark Boughton has called for some state police officers to be deputized as immigration agents and crack down on illegal immigrants in Danbury and around the state.
“The federal government has an inability to do its job as it relates to immigration,” Boughton said. “The fact of the matter is that this is out of control. I recognize that we are a nation of immigrants. This is not about immigrants. This is about illegal immigration. There is a difference.”
Under a 1996 federal immigration law, any municipality or state can make the request for its officers to be deputized. Boughton wrote a letter Friday to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asking him to start the process with the federal government.
In a prepared statement, the attorney general said he would review the request.
“I sympathize with the reasons for this serious and responsible proposal. We will analyze and evaluate Mayor Boughton’s request immediately and respond as soon as possible,” Blumenthal said.
A state police spokesman did not return a call for comment Friday.
The city’s estimated 15,000 illegal immigrants have been in the news several times in the past week. On Friday, The News-Times reported the city government is working on a law that would ban volleyball games that attract large crowds in residential neighborhoods. The games are a staple of Ecuadoran culture.
Meanwhile, an anti-illegal immigrant group announced plans to hold its inaugural meeting at the American Legion on Triangle Street Monday.
Enough is enough, said Wilson Hernandez, an American citizen who is past president of the Ecuadorian Civic Center.
Boughton’s proposal is “shocking. I thought the mayor was more compassionate with us. I’m breathless at this moment, believe me,” Hernandez said.
Under the deputization program, officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would run a five-week training program during which they would teach Connecticut officers about federal immigration laws. The officers also take classes on civil liberties and understanding different cultures.
Once officers complete the training, they return to regular patrols. The officers don’t necessarily look for illegal immigrants, but when they find someone who seems to lack documentation, they can access a federal data base to see if the person is wanted for a crime. They can also issue a summons ordering a person to appear in federal immigration court.
In the court, a federal immigration judge can sort out the residency questions, said Manny Van Pelt, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Van Pelt said the trained officers do not conduct illegal alien sweeps.
“This allows the local municipality the option of simply issuing that alien a (notice to appear) if there is a question,” Van Pelt said. “The alien is put into immigration proceedings and they can state their case to an impartial immigration judge.”
Only a handful of officers in two states — Florida and Alabama — have completed the training. Los Angeles has a six-month pilot program underway for police who work in some of its jails.