CT Conference of Municipalities worried about fed immigration policy

I hadn’t expected to see James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, at a protest of the federal Secure Communities initiative.

Launched in Connecticut earlier this year, Secure Communities uses local arrest data to help federal immigration officials track, detain and deport dangerous illegal immigrants.

Critics in Connecticut and nationwide claim despite how it’s been marketed since 2008, Secure Communities goes after all undocumented immigrants and causes them to view local authorities with suspicion rather than assist in solving/preventing crimes.

Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration shares those concerns and took steps state officials believe ensure only the worst-of-the-worst are targeted.

But various groups continue to protest the initative. This week it was the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Coalition’s turn to hold a press conference at the Capitol decrying Secure Communities.

And, as I wrote at the top, Finley was there among the mostly-Hispanic crowd.

I was surprised because Finley and CCM are influential at the Capitol. And Secure Communities, despite vocal opposition from immigrant-friendly New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and the Malloy administration’s response, has this year not garnered the same amount of attention from the movers-and-shakers in Hartford as issues involving education, the state budget, the death penalty and the minimum wage.

With the help of a translator, Finley told the crowd, “Connecticut’s diversity is our strength” and town and city leaders want a seat at the table if/when the Malloy administration makes additional policy decisions related to Secure Communities.

“Let’s make Connecticut a compassionate state,” Finley said.

After, Finley told me his members are also concerned about the perception local police are now immigration enforcement agents.

“Community policing is one of their major initiatives to try to reduce crime,” Finley said. “When you can’t partner as a police officer with the neighborhood you patrol on a regular basis it makes for a very difficult time.”

Brian Lockhart