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Republicans Take Aim at "Sanctuary Cities" -- Could New Haven and Hartford Pay the Price?

New Haven considers itself a "sanctuary city" for it's welcoming policies towards undocumented workers.

Governor Dannel Malloy's top criminal justice adviser said federal legislation penalizing so called "sanctuary cities" would have virtually no impact in Connecticut. 

The measure is in response to the recent shooting death of a young woman in San Francisco, a city that does not inform the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they detain and release undocumented immigrants. The alleged shooter is a Mexican national with a criminal background who returned to the States despite being deported five times. 

Now Republicans in Congress want to stop cities like San Francisco from denying ICE requests.

"We trust state and local law enforcement to investigate all manner of crime, from murder to sex assault to kidnapping to narcotics trafficking, but god forbid they help us enforce immigration law," said South Carolina Republican Representative Trey Gowdy on Thursday, testifying in support of a bill that would cut federal funding to municipalities whose police departments refuse to comply with requests from ICE.

The Republican bill passed along party lines Thursday. President Obama has promised a veto if the bill reaches his desk.

Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR
Mike Lawlor in a WNPR file photo.

Both New Haven and Hartford consider themselves "sanctuary cities," a far-from-technical term with no concrete definition.

According to Mike Lawlor, Connecticut's Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, there is a big difference between San Francisco's and Hartford and New Haven's approach to ICE requests.

"The way I understand it, in San Francisco, they have an explicit policy which prohibits the sheriff's department from notifying ICE that they have this guy, or they are about to release him," Lawlor said. "Connecticut has no such policy. Ice is aware of everyone we've got, and we communicate regularly with ICE about the status of those people."

Lawlor said the only town that does not inform ICE of undocumented immigrants is East Haven, as part of an agreement with the Justice Department. By state law, local police in Connecticut do not honor most requests by ICE to detain undocumented immigrants who are eligible for release.

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