New Haven Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova reaches out to Gerardo Roblero, whose father was detained by judicial marshals for ICE. mark pazniokas /
New Haven Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova reaches out to Gerardo Roblero, whose father was detained by judicial marshals for ICE. mark pazniokas /

The tension over Connecticut’s proper role in enforcing immigration law returned Friday to the State Capitol, where legislators considered ways for the state to limit deportations, and an immigration rights group complained that some Superior Court marshals were too aggressive in assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in deportations.

Connecticut passed “Trust Act” legislation six years ago that attempted to set clear rules for law enforcement officials dealing with undocumented immigrants, primarily by prohibiting their detention in the absence of a threat to public safety, an outstanding arrest warrant or a final order of deportation.

Citing research by an immigration clinic at the Yale Law School, the Connecticut Immigration Rights Alliance complained Friday that some judicial marshals, who provide security at state courthouses and lock-ups, enforced civil immigration detainers in possible violation of the 2013 law. 

A single marshal was responsible for enforcing more than half of ICE detainers over a one-year period reviewed from September 2016. But the group’s report indicated that 45 of the 50 persons detained for ICE were under a final order of removal, one of the criteria allowed in the 2013 law.

More troubling were some of the emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in which one marshal, who apparently lacked grounds to detain an immigrant, promised an ICE agent to “stall his release until you are on site.”

O’Donovan Murphy, the director of Judicial Marshals Services, said his office has written guidelines for marshals considerings ICE detainer requests.

“There is a screening tool that’s used by the marshal in the field,” Murphy said. “The decision to detain or release is made in the head administrative office.”

The legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a public hearing Friday on four immigration bills, including one proposed by Republicans to require more cooperation with ICE, not less. The others were geared to help immigrants avoid deportation.

One bill would provide legal representation in deportation cases. A second would reduce the current maximum sentence of one-year for a misdemeanor by a single day. Crimes punishable by a year or more in prison can trigger a deportation under federal immigration law. 

A third would strengthen and clarify provisions of the 2013 “Trust Act” by prohibiting state and local law enforcement from acting on ICE detainers without a federal judicial warrant. 

“The 2013 Trust Act falls far short of many of the policies adopted by other states and municipalities in years since,” said Iva Velickovic, a Yale law student and member of the school’s immigrant rights clinic. “Many states have surpassed Connecticut in restricting enforcement of such detainers.”

She said 760 state and local jurisdictions refuse to hold immigrants solely on civil detainer requests from ICE.

“ICE detainer requests are just that: requests,” said David McGuire, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. “They do not carry the weight of a warrant, and they provide no legal obligation or even justification for local law enforcement to detain, arrest or jail someone.”

Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, one of the sponsors of the bill that effectively would repeal the 2013 law, said the Democratic measure expanding the act was a threat to public safety.

“If this became law, it would expand an already dangerous and illegal policy into something far worse and will lead to the loss of life of Connecticut citizens,” Sampson said.

The Trump administration, however, has not included Connecticut among the jurisdictions whose handling of ICE detainers has been deemed illegal.

Immigrant rights’ advocates held a press conference Friday in support of the three pro-immigrant bills, reviewing cases where they say immigrants were detained on questionable grounds

New Haven’s assistant police chief, Luiz Casanova, said he supports the revised Trust Act, saying it will help police officers deal with immigrant communities.

“I consider myself  a community cop,” he said. “I consider myself a cop that the community trusts.”

He told Gerardo Roblero, who shared the story of his father being turned over to ICE for deportation to Mexico by judicial marshals, “I’m sorry that you and your family had to go through that.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

Join the Conversation


  1. Once again, CT politicians of BOTH parties are more concerned with aiding and abetting Illegal Aliens than they are about protecting American citizens and Legal Immigrants. They aren’t ‘immigrant’s rights’ groups, they are Illegal Alien’s Rights activists. It makes me sick to hear a LEO say “I’m sorry that you and your family had to go through that.”

    What these activists don’t understand is the more they try to shield Illegal Aliens, the more they put LEGAL immigrants and citizens at risk, both through their presence as well as forcing those responsible for actually enforcing the law to go into the ‘communities’ and retrieve he lawbreakers.

    As I always ask these lawmaker activists—“What laws will you allow me to break that will potentially reward my family and myself benefits valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?” (crickets)

  2. We live in The United States. If Connecticut Law Makers are unhappy following Federal Law (which they obviously are) then secede from the Union. NY, NJ, CT and RI can combine and become East California.

  3. This is a mistake. When does protecting people that break the law become a priority for CT democrats? This comes down to basic law. Currently federal law overrides state law. This is fact. The lawyers that are also politicians should have their law license revoked when they speak in favor of allowing people to break the law.

  4. An Immigrant is like a guest, one who requests permission to come into your home/country, and who obeys and respects the laws of the homeowner or the country. ICE is not “too aggressive” in pursuing these individuals, in fact, except for occasional mistakes, ICE never pursues Immigrants. In other words, Illegal alien “does not equal” Immigrant.

    There are other differences apart from the respect for the Rule of Law. Use of the welfare system, level of education, rate of violent crime. It is dangerous and misleading to confuse these two very different cohorts. Refusing to cooperate with ICE or participating in their demonization based on the belief that they are overly aggressive in apprehending Immigrants leads to protection of some very dangerous elements, and often heartbreaking consequences.

    We should support legislation that would establish exemptions to allow victims to bring legal actions against elected officials and government employees for damages to citizens by illegals whose removal by ICE was prevented or delayed because of violations of federal law by such officials such as Sanctuary City and non-cooperation policies.

Leave a comment