It is curious, but perhaps not surprising, that a contentious national issue recently overwhelmed local political discourse here in New London. The roiling debate about federal immigration policy spilled over into City Council Chambers last month, provoked by an innocuous proposed resolution intended to reaffirm longstanding interagency policy between municipal officials and federal immigration authorities.
My administration made diligent efforts to avoid precisely the backlash that occurred on April 23, when the City Council’s Public Safety Committee heard public comment on the resolution. It is disheartening that opposition to the resolution has focused on disenchantment with federal immigration policy and not on the actual resolution presented to the City Council.
So in fairness to the proposal, I hope to correct misinformation circulating about the resolution.
The resolution does not call for New London to become a so-called “sanctuary city.” City officials worked diligently with proponents of the resolution to ensure that it accurately reflected current city policies that are consistent with federal and state law.
For that reason, another criticism of the resolution – that it will bring unwanted federal attention to our city and possibly risk a loss of federal funding – is entirely unfounded. To some, the resolution is unnecessary for the very fact that it simply reaffirms the principles that our city has long lived by. To others, the proposed resolution is an important declaration of our city’s respect for the civil rights of all people.
The most common misunderstanding about the proposed resolution is that it protects so-called “illegal aliens.” Undocumented immigrants living in our community are not criminals. Under federal law, residing in this country without papers is a civil violation, not a crime. Many undocumented immigrants are our neighbors who have lived in our city for many years, working, paying taxes, raising their families and contributing to our community.
With the 2013 CT TRUST Act, which defines parameters for cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, Connecticut was at the forefront of protecting the constitutional rights of undocumented immigrants. Since passage of the CT TRUST Act, other municipalities (including Bloomfield, Bridgeport, East Haven, Hartford, New Haven, Willimantic, and Windham) have adopted ordinances, resolutions, or general orders reinforcing the principles of the Act.
Contrary to some misinformation circulating, the resolution would not affect the way New London police officers do their jobs. The proposed resolution, as well as the CT TRUST Act, respects the obligation of local law enforcement to share information and cooperate with federal officials.
We all want our city to be safe. The proposed resolution is one of many strategies for achieving the goal of increasing public safety. The City Council’s endorsement of existing local policy promoting the CT TRUST Act’s constitutional protections for undocumented immigrants would increase the prospects that these individuals will feel secure reporting crimes they have experienced or witnessed. We will all be safer as a result.
The proposed resolution places New London proudly alongside other Connecticut cities endorsing the public policy underlying the CT TRUST Act. It deserves the full support of the City Council and our community.
Michael Passero is the mayor of New London.