Eight Connecticut police departments, including five in Fairfield County, were cited by the American Civil Liberties Union in providing information on illegal immigrants to surveillance operations conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the ACLU, more than 80 local law enforcement agencies across the country have forwarded information into an automated license plate detector database used by ICE to track the movements of the individuals under surveillance. The depth and scope of ICE’s reliance on the database, which is run by Livermore, California-based Vigilant Solutions under a $6.1 million contract with the federal agency, was not made public until the ACLU of Northern California obtained documents on the operation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in May 2018.
Within Fairfield County, the police departments in Fairfield, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull and Westport were identified as working with ICE; the police departments serving Enfield, Wethersfield and Southern Connecticut State University were also cited in the ACLU report. The ACLU argued that the local police agencies were violating the state’s Trust Act of 2013, which prohibits state and local law enforcement from serving certain ICE detainers without a federal judicial warrant.
“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, ACLU of Connecticut executive director. “It is appalling that ICE has added this mass surveillance database to its arsenal and that Connecticut local agencies are compromising the privacy and civil liberties of Connecticut residents to aid this immoral deportation machine in its surveillance efforts. 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 issued a statement disputing the ACLU report’s claim that the city was actively cooperating with ICE. “We do not report on anyone’s immigration status,” he said. “On its face, it appears that 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.”
While the ACLU did not cite whether the partnership between ICE and local law enforcement resulted in any arrests, the news adds another degree of uncertainty to Connecticut’s illegal immigrant population, many of whom are active in the local labor force and business communities.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are approximately 102,000 illegal immigrants residing in Connecticut, with at least 69,000 active in the state’s workforce, mostly in the hospitality, administrative-waste management and construction trades. However, data from New American Economy put Connecticut’s illegal immigrant population at 136,000, with 88.1 percent of that demographic being of working age and more than 13,000 running their own businesses.
Since Donald Trump became president, the state government has been actively opposing his administration’s policies on illegal immigrants.
In 2017, then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a “suggested protocols” advisory that stated detainer requests issued by ICE were not warrants or orders and local law enforcement officers should not provide ICE agents with access to individuals in police custody.
Also in 2017, then-Attorney General George Jepsen was part of a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia that sued the Trump Administration from dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was created by an executive order in 2012 during the Obama Administration. That case is still pending.