Malloy's right, Connecticut not obligated to back Trump deportation policy

There is a stark divide between how Connecticut views the issue of dealing with immigrants who came to the country outside of the legal process and how the new administration in Washington sees things. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has every right to make it clear Connecticut stands apart from the policies of President Trump on that matter.

Connecticut voters have elected seven Democratic lawmakers to represent their interests in the Senate and House of Representatives. In their past statements, they have made it clear the path they would pursue. It is the same approach this newspaper has long advocated. And, it is worth noting, the approach that both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sought to push forward.

It would provide the means for those undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding residents to gain legal status, move out of the shadow economy and become fully immersed in their communities. Those who failed to seize this opportunity and continue living in the nation illegally would know they were doing so at risk of arrest and deportation.

Combined with this path to legal status would be tighter border control, which doesn’t mean a wall but could involve better use of monitoring technology and increased patrols and with improvements in tracking those who overstay visas.

In electing Trump, the nation instead opted for a leader who pledged to round them up and ship them out. He is proving good to his word. That does not mean Connecticut has to like it or cooperate with it.

The Trump administration is operating under new policies that target undocumented immigrants for expulsion for even minor, suspected offenses, a departure from the prior administration’s policy to focus resources on criminal elements in those communities.

The president has said the government will hire 10,000 new agents to enforce his administration’s more aggressive posture.

“It’s a military operation,” Trump told a gathering of manufacturing CEOs meeting with him at the White House last week.

He has already threatened to cut federal funding from cities that do not share his approach and points to a federal act that states local law enforcement officers can be “designated as an ‘immigration officer’ for purposes of federal immigration law.”

Malloy has made it clear that Connecticut has no such interest. He plans to enforce the Connecticut Trust Act, which reflects the attitude of the state’s citizens as interpreted by their elected leaders.

That 2013 law states officers can only detain an individual for violation of federal immigration law if they have been convicted of a felony, have an outstanding arrest warrant, are involved in gang activity or have already been issued an order of deportation.

In keeping in the spirit of that law, and not the Trump edict, Malloy issued instructions this week urging law enforcement officers to send any questions or demands from federal agents concerning immigration up their chains of command.

“The federal government cannot mandate states to investigate and enforce actions that have no nexus to the enforcement of Connecticut law or local ordinances," wrote Malloy in the memo to chiefs of police.

In a memo to superintendents of school, Malloy, mindful of the state law, encouraged schools to “consider having a plan in place in the event that (immigration enforcement) agents come to one of your schools requesting information about or access to a student.”

To some degree, Malloy’s steps may allay the fears of people in these communities. Connecticut recognizes that if these undocumented immigrants fear contacting their local police, crimes will go unreported and individuals will be exploited, including victims of domestic violence. Parents may fear involving children in community activities. More economic activity will be driven under the table.

The Trump way is not the way forward. As much as he can do so within the dictates of the law and the protections of the 10th Amendment — “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the States” — Malloy should continue to resist it.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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