Protesting immigrant crackdown program, activists take over Capitol lobby

More than 100 immigrant advocates crowded the Hall of Flags in the Capitol building Wednesday. They were armed with a letter for Gov. Dannel Malloy protesting Secure Communities, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program meant to target and deport illegal immigrants with the help of local law enforcement. Secure Communities goes live in Connecticut today — for more on the program see here.

Malloy wasn’t there to accept the missive, which urges him to ask for a delay or stop of the program. But his Undersecretary for Criminal Justice — Michael Lawlor — was on hand.

“There are a number of undocumented people here — myself included,” said Lorella Praeli of CT Students for a Dream, handing Lawlor the letter in front of a crowd of television cameras and supporters. “I can’t stress enough what a negative impact this program will have on our communities.”

Praeli called herself “out of the shadows,” but that’s not the case for most undocumented immigrants. “This program will have such a chilling effect — people might stay at home if there’s a rape or robbery,” she said.

Lawlor assured the crowd that the Governor shares their concerns, but has his hands tied to a certain extent.

Lorella Praeli

Lorella Praeli delivers protest letter

“We have no direct control over what ICE does — but we will be monitoring what they’re doing carefully,” he said. “At the end of the day the real losers are the front line police who’ll lose the trust of the immigrant communities in Connecticut.”

He welcomed the advocacy effort, saying, “It’s very important in this context, so thank you.”

Immigrant rights groups will hold a related protest march in East Haven this Saturday.