Homeland Security’s controversial “secure communities” program going live in Connecticut

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s controversial “secure communities” is going live in Connecticut on Wednesday, despite reservations by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy about the wisdom of turning local police officers into enforcement agents on immigration cases.

Connecticut did not join New York, Massachusetts and Illinois in trying to opt out of the program, but the Malloy administration did delay implementation here for six months.

Anticipating questions, the administration’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy, Michael P. Lawlor, issued a statement today:

“While we are very mindful of the need to enhance public safety, there are legitimate concerns when it comes to the implementation of the Secure Communities program. Six months ago, when the Department of Homeland Security announced that Secure Communities was scheduled to go ‘live’ statewide in Connecticut, Gov. Malloy asked for and received a delay in the activation because of these concerns.

“What this program does is it essentially converts local law enforcement officers into defacto agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The governor shares the opinion of many police chiefs that this policy could lead to a situation where victims and witnesses in the immigrant community would be reluctant to cooperate with local and state law enforcement, something that would completely undermine the goals of this program.

“The governor has asked Department of Corrections Commissioner Leo Arnone to create an ongoing review of how this program is implemented and what the ramifications are, and see what if any corrective action is needed going forward. Decisions on how to respond to each request will be made on a case-by-case basis.”