Casey's law revived for new Congress consideration

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and a Republican congressman from Georgia have re-introduced a bill that would put pressure on countries that refuse to accept citizens deported from the United States after being convicted of committing violent crimes.

The Remedies for Refusal of Repatriation Act is known locally as "Casey's Law" for 25-year-old Casey Chadwick of Norwich, who was stabbed to death in June 2015 by a Haitian national who should have been deported after an earlier conviction for attempted murder.

Proposals that were introduced last year in both chambers of Congress died when the legislative session came to an end. A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he would be re-introducing a bill in the Senate in the near future.

Courtney said he and Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia are once again co-sponsoring the bill to require staff from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Custom Enforcement to prioritize cases that involve violent crimes and to "move them up the food chain" to the U.S. Department of State if, like in the case of Chadwick's killer, Jean Jacques, a country refuses to accept, or repatriate, a citizen who has been deported from the United States

The State Department has authority to take an array of actions, all the way up to denying aid to countries or denying visas to its citizens, Courtney said in a phone interview. He is hopeful the measure involving "recalcitrant repatriation" will receive bipartisan support.

"You're dealing with a population that has already been deported," he said. "There's no debate where they fit in, in terms of the spectrum of undocumented immigrants. They are in the category of most acute cases."

President Donald Trump, who mentioned the Chadwick case during his campaign, has issued an executive order requiring the secretary of state "to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States."

Courtney said the executive order is more sweeping, and problematic in his opinion, while the bill he and Woodall introduced is "more surgical."

Chadwick's mother, Wendy Hartling of Gales Ferry, said a member of Courtney's staff called her to let her know the bill has been re-introduced.

"I would like to see it pass," she said. "That would be wonderful. It's what I've been fighting for so long."

Hartling said she would be happy to testify at a public hearing on the bill. She has been working with New London attorney Chester W. Fairlie since learning her daughter's killer had been ordered deported after a 1996 conviction for attempted murder and had been detained by immigration officials four times, but released after Haiti refused to accept him back.

Jacques, 42, was convicted of Chadwick's murder after a trial in New London last year and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Testimony revealed he stabbed Chadwick multiple times, penetrating her carotid artery and jugular vein and piercing her brain stem before leaving her body in a closet in her Spaulding Street apartment.

In the 1996 case, a shooting on Laurel Hill Avenue in Norwich, Jacques' former girlfriend suffered a serious head injury and her new boyfriend died. Jacques, initially charged with murder, was convicted of attempted murder in connection with the girlfriend's injury and criminal possession of a firearm. He served 15 years for that crime.

Jacques had fled Haiti and come to the United States through Cuba when he was 17 or 18 years old, according to testimony at his sentencing. He told probation officers during a presentencing interview that his father was taken out of church by soldiers and executed in front of him.

John Roth, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, investigated the Jacques case at the request of Connecticut's congressional delegation and, in a report released in June 2016, found that immigration officials could have prevailed upon the State Department to put pressure on Haiti by suspending visas for those traveling from Haiti to the United States. ICE agents decided not to because they believed the State Department would have taken action only if Jacques committed acts of terror or human rights violations, according to the report.

"The inspector general's report showed that the people at ICE had no clue about the kinds of cases that State would take up for the execution of deportations," Courtney said. "This bill deals with a real dysfunction at the agency level in the U.S. and empowers the State Department to really step up cooperation."

Courtney said the inspector general is expected in the near future to release a second report on the case.  

Fairlie said the proposed bill requires a joint annual report to Congress by ICE and the Department of State on which countries have been identified as recalcitrant to take deportees and the steps that have been taken to make them more responsible.

Haiti usually is more cooperative, but in Jacques' case officials said he lacked the proper documents identifying him as a citizen of Haiti. Jacques had signed an affidavit affirming he was a Haitian citizen and provided officials with contact information for his mother and other relatives in Haiti and the United States. He listed his place of birth and told the officials what school he had attended while growing up in Port-au-Prince.

His mother in Haiti claimed she had lost all of her children's identification documents, and because Haitian birth certificates are not public records, U.S. officials could not obtain them.

"These receiving countries, when they look at someone like Jean Jacques and his terrible record of causing someone's death, and 27 tickets in prison and failing to comply with parole and probation, they may have decided 'We don't want him back. He's too dangerous. You keep him,'" Fairlie said. "It may be that these recalcitrant countries, without pressure from the State Department, begin to control certain deportation policy that ICE is trying to carry out."

k.florin@theday

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