Connecticut Urban Centers Could Be In Crosshairs of Trump’s Sanctuary City Crackdown

Connecticut Urban Centers Could Be In Crosshairs of Trump’s Sanctuary City Crackdown

The wrath of Donald Trump against so-called “sanctuary cities” could be pronounced for Connecticut if he makes good on threats to withhold federal funds from communities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Whether the tough-talking president-elect does or not is a source of growing consternation from city halls to the state Capitol, so much that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently vowed to sue Trump’s administration if it targets cuts here.

Not only do many state and city leaders contend it’s beyond their scope to enforce federal immigration laws, they say it’s unconstitutional to detain individuals based solely on their immigration status.

“This is government time (and) that was sound-bite time, so we’ll see,” said Michael Lawlor, the state’s under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning. “You can’t just lock people up for no reason. You have to have a warrant.”

A request for comment was left for Trump’s transition team.

Connecticut itself has been designated as a sanctuary state by the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies, in addition to the cities of New Haven and Hartford.

It’s not a legal term, but is generally used to describe cities and other jurisdictions that have granted asylum to undocumented immigrants, either formally or informally.

Sanctuary can mean anything from local police denying detainer requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to refusing to check immigration status.

“In general, I guess you could apply it to Bridgeport, but that doesn’t mean we don’t cooperate with federal agencies,” said Av Harris, a spokesman for Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. “Of course we do.”

During Ganim’s second stint as mayor of the state’s largest city, Bridgeport has focused on preventing gun violence, in addition to drug and human trafficking.

“We are not the agency in charge of finding undocumented immigrants and getting them in front of a deportation hearing,” Harris said. “There is a federal agency that is already doing that.”

28% of Bridgeport residents foreign born back to top

Census data shows 28 percent of residents in the state’s largest city are foreign born, with significant numbers of immigrants coming from Cape Verde, the Middle East, Asia and the West Indies.

“There are undocumented immigrants in our community and they are part of the essential fabric of our community,” Harris said. “This has always been a city that’s welcoming to immigrants. Immigrants have given the city its strength and vibrancy.”

Bridgeport officials say they aren’t worried about losing federal funding under Trump, who they noted has a solid rapport with Ganim going back to the 1990s when the two tried to collaborate on a waterfront casino development.

Both the governor and his criminal justice czar have frowned upon the use of the term “sanctuary city,” however.

“I think it’s just a pejorative term that they use,” Lawlor said.

In 2013, Connecticut passed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, which gives local law enforcement officers discretion to carry out immigration detainer requests only for suspected felons. The legislation was borne out of a class-action lawsuit filed by a Yale Law clinic on behalf of Sergio Brizuela, an East Haven resident who was held for several days by the state Department of Correction on an immigration detainer.

Republican Peter Lumaj, an immigration and criminal lawyer from Fairfield who was born in Albania and is exploring a run for governor, said cities are flouting the law.

“I think their funding should be cut,” Lumaj said. “Sanctuary cities basically harbor illegals. If you’re illegal, you’re illegal.”