Hartford Considers Restriction to Make Community Safer

In Hartford, CT, local officials are considering a measure that would would prohibit police and other city agencies from inquiring about a resident's immigration status in most situations. When local police aim to enforce federal immigration laws (under the law known as 287(g)), immigrants (both documented and undocumented) fear police and don't report crimes, even when they are victims. This fear of law enforcement and lack of cooperation causes crimes to go unreported and as a result makes communities less safe. It also makes immigrant communities extremely vulnerable.

In addition, when local police act as federal law enforcement, resources are taken away from real public safety issues -

Hartford has real issues to deal with," said [councilman} Luis Cotto, a Working Families Party member. "Hartford does not have the luxury to have its police act as federal law enforcement officers."

The proposal in Hartford is similar to a measure passed in New Haven, where officials took the measure a step further, issuing a city-wide ID card.

Kica Matos, administrator of New Haven's Community Services Department, said 6,600 residents have received the identification card, which celebrates its first anniversary Thursday.

"Our experience in New Haven is the ID card and the general order have made people in the immigrant community feel safer and more willing to cooperate with the police," she said Monday at the end of a trip to California where she advised officials in several cities, including Los Angeles, about how to create the cards.

The proposal comes in the wake of last year's raids on a Brazilian community in Hartford. While police were looking for a murder suspect, twenty-one alleged immigrants were detained and panic spread through the Brazilian community.

The new proposal will help to quell the panic and fear that the raids instilled in the immigrant community and will in turn, make the community more likely to cooperate with local law enforcement. It also goes a bit further, by offering social services to all city residents, regardless of status.

Though the proposal is still being considered, Mayor Eddie A. Perez has spoken out in support of the measure.