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Advocates Urge Connecticut to Use Discretion When Responding to Immigration Authorities

Immigration rights advocates stopped by the office of Governor Dannel Malloy on Thursday to ask for a decision on the case of a Norwalk man who's in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. 

They say the case of 21-year-old Esvin Lima points to problems with the Connecticut Trust Act and how the state responds to federal immigration officials. Lima is in jail facing a burglary charge. His attorney said he was falsely accused by his landlord who retaliated against Lima after he was reported for housing code violations. Lima is living in the country illegally and has a prior order of removal from the U.S. He remains in jail because he's not posting his low bond for fear that the state will contact Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Credit Unidad en Accion
21 year old Esvin Lima

The state DOC will honor a request to hold an individual for federal authorities for a variety of reasons including if the person has a prior deportation order. The policy stems from the Trust Act which came out of a settlement between the DOC and attorneys at Yale Law School that set guidelines for when the state would hold inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Alok Bhatt, a member of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance said the state should consider the fact that Lima does not have a criminal record. Bhatt said, "Being undocumented is not a crime. DOC actually does have discretion to release individuals even though they have prior removals from the US that if they don't pose a threat to public safety, DOC has discretion to release these individuals into the community."

Advocates have met several times with Governor Malloy and his chief for criminal justice policy and planning, Mike Lawlor. In a statement, Lawlor wouldn't say when a decision will be made only that "We are gathering information regarding best practices in other jurisdictions in order to inform any policy decision that Connecticut will make." Meanwhile, Lima filed a complaint against his former landlords saying he was discriminated against because he's undocumented. He remains jailed at Bridgeport Correctional.

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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