Nor­walk de­nies ACLU re­port on cops aid­ing ICE

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Dixon

HART­FORD — Po­lice in Fair­field, West­port, Strat­ford, Trum­bull and Nor­walk have been as­sist­ing U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in pro­vid­ing the lo­ca­tions of res­i­dents in a na­tion­wide mass-sur­veil­lance pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

A re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day by the ACLU’s North­ern Cal­i­for­nia of­fice charges that in all, eight Con­necti­cut law-en­force­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity, and po­lice in En­field and Wethers­field have been pro­vid­ing the in­for­ma­tion in pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tion of the state’s 2013 TRUST law.

In all, 80 law en­force­ment en­ti­ties across the coun­try have given ICE as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion through a wide-rang­ing li­cense-plate data­base track­ing daily move­ments of po­ten­tial ICE tar­gets, the ACLU said.

“This is the lat­est ex­am­ple of why Con­necti­cut needs a mul­ti­tude of safe­guards to take con­trol of po­lice sur­veil­lance and limit lo­cal law en­force­ment’s co­op­er­a­tion with ICE,” said David McGuire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Con­necti­cut. “All eight of these Con­necti­cut po­lice de­part­ments must im­me­di­ately stop shar­ing their res­i­dents’ in­for­ma­tion with this rogue and im­moral agency, and Con­necti­cut’s leg­is­la­ture must step up to pass a statewide law to take con­trol over po­lice sur­veil­lance, cre­ate pri­vacy pro­tec­tions if the state adopts elec­tronic tolls, and pass a bill to strengthen the TRUST Act.”

Nor­walk Mayor Harry Rilling and Nor­walk Po­lice Chief Thomas Kul­hawik in a joint state­ment Wed­nes­day night de­nied that there is an agree­ment with ICE.

“We do not re­port any­one’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” Rilling and Kul­hawik said. “On its face, it ap­pears data from a cloud-based law en­force­ment data­base used by NPD was used by ICE to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion on spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als. That is not the in­tent of this data­base, as it is meant to as­sist

law en­force­ment with crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

They said Nor­walk is a wel­com­ing city. “We proudly stand with im­mi­grants and res­i­dents of all back­grounds and be­liefs. Our di­ver­sity is one of the great­est strengths of our com­mu­nity. It is the ex­press pol­icy of the Nor­walk Po­lice De­part­ment to re­frain from co­op­er­at­ing or as­sist­ing with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion ac­tions.”

Wethers­field Po­lice Chief James Ce­tran, pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut Po­lice Chiefs As­so­ci­a­tion, said Wed­nes­day that he had been un­aware that the li­cense-plate con­trac­tor has been shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with ICE, and planned to find out more on Thurs­day.

“It’s a valu­able tool,” Ce­tran said in an evening in­ter­view. “I’m not look­ing for it to track im­mi­grants. I don’t be­lieve po­lice in Con­necti­cut, or around the coun­try,

are us­ing this to track cit­i­zens go­ing abouit their daily busi­ness.”

Rep. Steve Stafstrom, DBridge­port, co-chair­man of the leg­isla­tive Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said the re­port is dis­turb­ing, but he stressed that pend­ing bills would close sev­eral loop­holes in the cur­rent law. One pro­posal would re­quire lo­cal gov­ern­ment to re­port to the state data re­gard­ing in­di­vid­u­als to whom lo­cal law en­force­ment has pro­vided ICE ac­cess.

“If proven true, this re­port is very con­cern­ing,” he said. “Just last week, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee heard heart-wrench­ing tes­ti­mony as to how fam­i­lies in our state are be­ing ripped apart by ICE’s ex­treme de­por­ta­tion tac­tics. Con­necti­cut was a leader in pass­ing the first TRUST Act as way of mak­ing sure in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing in our state have an op­por­tu­nity to seek help, to go to po­lice of­fi­cers when they are vic­tims of crimes, and to in­ter­act with gov­ern­ment without the fear of be­ing de­ported. Lo­cal gov­ern­ment should not

be vi­o­lat­ing the spirit of that law and us­ing their limited re­sources to do ICE’s job for it.”

The re­port was re­leased Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. Po­lice de­part­ments in Fair­field, West­port, Strat­ford, Trum­bull and Nor­walk did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Re­ac­tion from im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates was strong, com­ing in the wake of a re­port from the Con­necti­cut Im­mi­grant Rights Al­liance that linked ju­di­cial mar­shals to pos­si­bly im­proper con­tact with ICE per­son­nel.

“We al­ready know how ICE is (a) rogue agency that is chas­ing peo­ple at court­houses and de­tain­ing peo­ple for traf­fic tick­ets. But this is a whole other level,” said Mary El­iz­a­beth Smith of the ad­vo­cacy group Make The Road CT. “Make the Road mem­bers travel, live, go to school, and work in the very towns men­tioned in this re­port — Trum­bull, Fair­field, and Strat­ford. No one should fear for their lives and safety while go­ing about their daily lives. It is un­ac­cept­able for our lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments to share li­cense place in­for­ma­tion with ICE. The only rea­son for ICE to want this in­for­ma­tion (is) to strike fear in the hearts of our com­mu­nity, and we won’t stand for it.”

An­other pend­ing piece of leg­is­la­tion would limit mis­de­meanor sen­tences to 364 days, so a case would not trig­ger the in­ter­est of im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

“We are ap­palled by the find­ings of this re­port. Specif­i­cally, by the news that the po­lice de­part­ment at South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity is shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with ICE,” said Jonathan Gon­za­lez, an SCSU alum­nus and CT Stu­dents for a Dream Pol­icy Co­or­di­na­tor. “No stu­dent should feel at risk or threat­ened when seek­ing to pur­sue their ed­u­ca­tion. When this hap­pens, our stu­dents abil­ity to learn are se­verely af­fected - which goes against the goals of our in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing.”

The co­op­er­a­tion of SCSU po­lice ap­parently coun­ters the State Univer­sity Sys­tem pro­to­col of 2017, Gon­za­lez said.

“The ACLU’s find­ing’s re­gard­ing state and lo­cal po­lice shar­ing li­cense plate in­for­ma­tion with ICE fur­ther ex­pose the com­plic­ity of Con­necti­cut law en­force­ment with a racist de­por­ta­tion regime,” said Alok Bhatt, Con­necti­cut Im­mi­grant Rights Al­liance (CIRA) com­mu­nity de­fense co­or­di­na­tor. “While this in­for­ma­tion causes alarm, it should also gal­va­nize us to es­ca­late our fight to get ICE out of Con­necti­cut. We need strong state poli­cies, like the TRUST Act, to pre­vent such sys­tem­atic vi­o­lence, while fur­ther or­ga­niz­ing to de­fend our own com­mu­ni­ties.”

The doc­u­ments were ob­tained after the ACLU of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia filed a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act law­suit in May of last year. The re­ports in­di­cates that 9,000 ICE agents have ac­cess to a li­cense plate-reader data­base run by a com­pany called Vig­i­lant So­lu­tions.

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