Trump’s executive orders on immigration met with caution, defiance

January 26, 2017 GMT

Mayor Mark Boughton reacted cautiously Wednesday to President Trump’s coming executive order reinstating the Secure Communities program, which gives local law enforcement greater powers in enforcing immigration laws.

Danbury participated in the program, which included creating a partnership between local and federal authorities to identify undocumented immigrants, from 2010 until it was halted by the Obama administration in 2014.

The program deported 166,000 immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States from 2008 to 2012, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Boughton viewed the policy as successful during its four-year run in Danbury, when about 20 arrests were made, but said the city might no longer need it.

“I think it’s a good program, but whether we go back into it is something we’ll look at,” Boughton said. “It’s a different time period now, and we’ve reached an equilibrium here in Danbury, so whether we will go back to it, I’m not sure.”

Trump’s plan to resume Secure Communities was one of several immigration-related measures announced Wednesday by White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Trump also signed executive orders to begin construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, making good on the most controversial of his campaign promises, and to examine ways of denying federal funding to “sanctuary cities” that harbor undocumented immigrants.

Boughton, who is exploring a run for governor, ignited controversy early in his tenure by asking that police be deputized as immigration agents. The later arrests of a group of immigrants who came to be known as the “Danbury 11’′ led to a legal challenge and the city’s eventual payment of $400,000 to the plaintiffs.

Boughton’s immigration policies also provoked a community backlash, culminating in a “unity march” of 1,200 people.

The newly signed executive orders — and the prospect of further measures to tighten immigration enforcement — have elicited similar disapproval from local groups.

Carolina Bortolleto, co-founder of CT Students for a Dream, which advocates for young immigrants, said her organization will continue to fight against the new administration’s policies.

“No matter what happens or no matter what this administration does, we will keep fighting,” Bortolleto said. “[His administration] wants to have immigrants living in fear, but we’re going to keep fighting so that our communities can advocate for their rights and work locally to create safe spaces in our towns.”

CT Students for a Dream planned to launch their #AffordtoDream campaign at a press conference tomorrow, an effort to equalize access to student aid for undocumented immigrants. Bortolleto said the recent orders reaffirm the need for the group’s efforts.

Another Danbury resident, Angelica Idrovo, who came to the U.S. from Ecuador about eight years ago, plans to speak out as well.

“I am undocumented,” she said. “Years ago, I came out of the shadows, and now more than ever I cannot go back to the shadows. We’re looking forward to resisting and organizing our community to be united.”

Danbury’s immigrant population has grown rapidly over the last decade as 8,000 Latinos moved to the city. The Latino population now makes up 25 percent of the city’s 83, 684 people.

In addition to Latino immigrants, the Danbury area has also seen an increase in refugees from Syria and other countries.

As early as Thursday, Trump is expected to sign an order to create a temporary ban on refugees from six Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as make plans to review and change the current refugee vetting process.

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a New Haven nonprofit, said it has recently been working with 60 groups across the state that want to help sponsor refugee families. One of those groups, Danbury Area Refugee Assistance, hopes the federal policies will not hinder their plans to help refugee families already in the U.S. reunite with relatives still in the Middle East.

“We do know refugees with family they’re looking to extricate safely from Syria,” founder James Naddeo said. “We are trying to help any way we can. We want to operate within the federal guidelines, however disappointing that may be, but we are going to keep working.”