The Day is fast approaching. The January Common Council meeting has been set for 1/3 at 7:30pm at City Hall in Danbury. The most newsworthy point on this months agenda is the proposed institution of the 287g ICE ACCESS program. Insiders are fairly sure that this measure will be adopted, carte blanche, and unanimously by the common council. For those of you not familiar, the 287g ICE ACCESS program would enable local police to train with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and set forth a partnership where the specific officers who are trained would then be under the direction of, and subject to the FEDERAL jurisdiction of ICE. It would enable them to conduct investigations of suspected criminal aliens, and those facing final deportation orders. It would allow them to conduct raids, and to arrest and detain undocumented individuals who are part of the ICE jurisdiction.
Several serious questions must be raised about this process, which the Common Council at this point does not seem to be raising.
1. How will the program be paid for? Federal government only reimburses a certain percentage of the costs incurred by this program. It does NOT pay for things such as travel and lodging expenses, or food for the agents during the training. Further, once they finish training, the public has not been advised as to which charges will be covered by federal budget. As in, how will these investigations be paid for? Surveillance? Housing of those arrested and detained? WHERE will they be housed and detained? The current police department does not appear to have ample enough space in their jails to house a large increase in arrestees.
2. While the already short staffed police force in Danbury perform these new duties, there will be at least 2 officers who will now be devoted to other duties, specifically those pertaining to issues of immigration. So, that means there will be 2 less officers on the beat to deal with the concerns of the average American resident, and the public safety issues in general. First of all, doesn't the Police already have the authority to arrest and detain anyone suspected of criminal wrong doing? Why do they need a partnership with ICE to allow this? Secondly, with two less officers on the beat handling general crime, will other police officers be asked to put in overtime hours, and how much will that cause the average danbury tax payer?
3. A partnership with ICE can only cause problems in trust between local police, and our Immigrant Community. One of the most obvious examples of how the Immigrant community could suffer as a result of this program, is domestic abuse cases. Imagine you are a woman, undocumented, who is being abused, by a spouse or boyfriend. To even reach out and call the police, for even an American Citizen in such a situation is hard enough. Domestic Abuse victims and survivors suffer years of mistrust and "shell shock" and feelings of isolation from their abusive relationships. In this situation, often, reaching out and telling people what you are suffering can be hard enough to do, imagine then, how much more difficult it would be to report such a crime if you were simultaneously terrified of being arrested and deported yourself due to your lack of documents? Imagine how easy it would be for an abuser to use this tool to further terrify the abused "I'll call the cops on you, and they'll see you don't have documents. So shut up and do what I tell you...". etc. A slippery slope indeed.
4. Members of the Immigrant Community have already privately pointed to situations in which they believe that they were discriminated against, and were victims of racial profiling and harassment due to their culture. Being that this sort of partnership with ICE has the potential to be abused, and to create a situation where frequent racial profiling is used as a tool to catch and deport "criminal aliens" how many of our Legal Hispanic and Latino residents could possibly be wrongfully detained, and harrassed even by our local police? Is there an assurance that common council can give us that this will NOT happen? Have they studied the program deeply enough to know?
These are just some of the questions that need to be raised by people at the Common Council meeting 1/3. The simple fact is, that even for those who may not be on the side of Immigrants, there are enough reasons to halt this process and ask that our common council take it to further study before accepting it. This is not a decision to enter into lightly, lest we expose ourselves to strains on our municipal police, on the taxpayers wallets, lest we expose ourselves to lawsuits incurred by civil rights violations, and less we further marginalize members of our immigrant community (legal, as well as undocumented).
We at Stop the Raids urge you to come down to the City Hall and make your arguments that day, and say loud and clear to the common council "Don't pass the 287g program today!" and preferably, don't pass it, ever.