NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ The Malloy administration and immigrants’ rights advocates in Connecticut announced Tuesday a legal settlement limiting the number of immigrants handed over to federal officials.
Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, which represented an East Haven man detained by state officials and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sued the state last year.
Travis Silva of the Yale legal group praised the settlement, which was filed in federal court on Tuesday.
“It took some political imagination to get this done,” he said.
The settlement, which is in effect for four years, approves a policy that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy put in place in April, said Mike Lawlor, the state’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning. State officials will honor so-called “detainer requests” by federal immigration officials only when dealing with serious or violent criminals, he said.
Immigrant advocates say the state turned over 33 individuals to ICE each month in 2011. Since case-by-case assessments took effect, the number has dropped to fewer than 10 a month, the Yale law group said.
Lawlor said Malloy acted in response to a federal immigration initiative, the Secure Communities program, which uses fingerprints collected in local jails to identify illegal immigrants who have been arrested.
Victims and witnesses in the immigrant community might be reluctant to cooperate with local and state law enforcement if they fear deportation, Lawlor said. He said the federal program could potentially interfere with law enforcement.
Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for ICE, said in a statement that the agency’s priorities include identifying and removing illegal immigrants who have broken laws, are a threat to national security, recently crossed the border or repeatedly violate immigration law. ICE issued new guidance in December restricting the use of detainers to exclude those arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes, he noted.
Yale’s legal advocacy group said Sergio Brizuela, a 33-year-old East Haven resident, filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in February 2012 after state correction officials unlawfully detained him and transferred him to ICE custody.
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