Fairfield County Immigrants Targeted, Deported

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Immigration attorneys Alex Meyerovich, left, and Amy Morilla advise Rony Molina of Stamford. Molina's wife was deported. Photo Credit: Richard Weizel
Rony Molina with sons Alex, 11, left, and Ronald, 8, in their Stamford home. Molina is a Guatemalan immigrant and U.S. citizen. Photo Credit: Richard Weizel

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Hector Mendez, who lives in Norwalk, says he made a daring four-day dash across the desert from Mexico to the United States six years ago and has not looked back.

“I had to pay coyotes (human traffickers who charge up to $20,000 to sneak immigrants into the country) every penny I had to get me here, but it was worth it,” said the 34-year-old restaurant kitchen worker, who has also labored in various little jobs just to survive.

“But I still have a better life here than in my country. Americans don’t understand what it’s like to live without any hope of having a job in filthy conditions,” said Mendez, who declined to say where he works or lives and put his hands in front of his face when asked if his picture could be taken.

“No picture,” he said. “That would be too risky.”

Mendez, who is an illegal immigrant, said he is much more fearful since last year’s launch in Fairfield County of Secure Communities, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that targets illegal immigrants and deports them to their native countries. A fellow worker was detained and deported under Secure Communities six months ago after being arrested for driving without a license, he said.

“He had to drive to work, but there’s no way to get a license if you aren’t a citizen,” said Mendez. “I want to be a citizen, but it’s not easy these days and I can’t take the chance of being sent back. I can’t live like that again.”

Immigration lawyers, advocates and even state and federal officials are concerned that the program, which has now gone statewide, will be used by ICE to deport people arrested for minor offenses.

In fact, the Task Force on Secure Communities, a subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, has concluded both ICE and local police often overstep their boundaries.

“There are circumstances in which Secure Communities results in the removal of persons who are minor offenders or who have never been convicted of a crime, and because statements by ICE have left much confusion about the full reach of its enforcement priorities, many jurisdictions are concerned about the impact on community policing,” a task force report said.

“Many Task Force members would (recommend) suspension of the program until major changes are made, or even termination of what they believe is a fundamentally flawed program,” the report states.

Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling denies that local police arrest people for minor offenses to have them deported.

“Yes, we have worked with ICE when they request help in trying to find a particular individual,” Rilling said. “But after we arrest someone and turn them over, it’s completely in the hands of immigration officials. The idea that we’re going around rounding up people to deport them is ridiculous.”

However, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials are leery about Secure Communities. Malloy delayed implementation of the program for six months and has indicated he intends to keep a close watch on it.

“What it does is essentially convert local law enforcement officers into de facto agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and that perception in the community is very dangerous, as people are afraid  of going to local police,” said Michael Lawlor, the state’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning. 

“The governor shares the opinion of many police chiefs that this policy could lead to a situation where victims and witnesses in the immigrant community would be reluctant to cooperate with local and state law enforcement,” Lawlor said. “The program could even result in making far more immigrants victims of violent crime as they become more fearful of reporting anything to local police.”

Malloy has asked Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone to review how the program is implemented and whether “corrective action is needed.”

But Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for ICE in Washington, D.C., says the program is working.

“Secure Communities has demonstrated its effectiveness in transforming immigration enforcement to a focus on criminal offenders,” Feinstein said. “In just two years, ICE has dramatically increased the removal of convicted criminals and reduced the number of noncriminal immigration violators removed.”

Still, immigration attorney Alex Meyerovich, with offices in Norwalk and Bridgeport, said many of his clients are “terrified” of being targeted.

“This is just another example of the idiotic and completely arbitrary deportation process used by our government,” Meyerovich said. “We are wasting millions and millions of dollars to entrap and deport people who pose absolutely no threat to this country and just come here seeking a better life. They are willing to work in the most menial jobs that most Americans wouldn’t even consider … and many come back three, four, even five times after being deported.”

This is the second in a two-part series about the plight of illegal immigrants in Fairfield County and increased efforts to deport them.

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Comments (14)

claymation:

What don't people get about the term ILLEGAL immigration??

“There are circumstances in which Secure Communities results in the removal of persons who are minor offenders or who have never been convicted of a crime,....."

No matter what reason these people are stopped for, they are committing a crime, it's called being in this country illegally!!!! I don't understand how people think it is fine for any other country to enforce it laws and jail or deport people who break them, but if someone illegally enters the U.S. and commits another crime here or not, everyone feels sorry for them, gives them a pass and rewards them with welfare money and free health care that we all pay for.

lwitherspoon:

WhiteDude, you're nuts. If you don't want to marry a non-white person that's your business, but the rest of us will marry whoever we like. My life is much richer through my relationships with people of other cultures, and this is nothing new, it has been going on for thousands of years.

As for the deportation issue, what I don't understand is how the father is now a legal US Citizen but the mother is not. I thought foreign-born spouses of US Citizens can easily get citizenship, unless the couple are not truly living as a couple and the marriage is determined by INS to have been solely for the purpose of gaining citizenship. Maybe the fact that she previously came here illegally means she can't become a citizen through her existing marriage to a legal US Citizen.

People who come to this country in search of a better life and are willing to work hard should be encouraged to do so, but legally. I think as a general rule, most immigrants work harder or in less attractive jobs than natural-born citizens, and I have been told by people with a lot of experience in the matter that immigrants are generally very willing to work -- in fact they are LESS likely than natural-born citizens to want something for nothing. In odd cases such as this one, I would base the decision to deport on whether or not the family and business is current on taxes and complies with all applicable laws (i.e. not employing illegals).

There are so many people here illegally that it's a practical impossibility to deport them all. I think the best way to deal with the issue is 1) strengthen the borders 2) check the immigration status of anyone involved in a crime, if they're not legal, deport them and 3) find a way to get all the other illegals paying taxes, and after a certain number of years doing so, give them a path to citizenship.

WhiteDude:

Asia for Asians, Africa for Africans, White countries for everyone????????

Everybody
says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will
be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY
into White countries.

The Netherlands and Belgium are more
crowded than Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve
this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote
assimilating unquote with them.

Everybody says the final
solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY White
countries to "assimilate," i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

What
if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be
solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into
EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

How long
would it take anyone to realize I'm not talking about a RACE problem. I
am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn't object to this?

But
if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide
against my race, the White race, Liberals and respectable conservatives
will just say that I'm a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

DLB:

For fairness and truth's sake, please change the title of this article to "Fairfield County Illegal Immigrants Targeted, Deported"

Ken P Jr:

This is a ridiculous subject. Its against our laws to sneak in & its against our laws to stay. So in reality, this person in this story did not commit just one crime, he commits more every day he is still here. Why wouldnt we immediately deport people who have no respect for our laws? If we had several dozen likely burglary, murder or rape suspects standing on a corner day after day basically advertising their status I'm pretty sure we'd do something about it, but we are not allowed to stop and ask the dozens of day laborers on the roadside by Martin Luther King Dr for ID? How much does it cost us? Who knows, its hard to say. We need to send out duplicates of every school form in Spanish, that costs money. American people need work but cant find it because we cant compete with these people and get by, how much does that cost us? How much does it cost us to have them running companies ONLY hireing other latinos who dont pay taxes? Personally I think any lawyer not advising their clients to obey the law should be disbarred. Telling their illegal immigrant clients to fight and stay is no different than telling a murderer to fight & keep killing, or a drug dealer to keep dealing or a prostitute to keep turning tricks. Theres something seriously wrong here & its not our laws, its our hesitation to enforce them. Funny because when its an American many times we just arrest them & let the courts deal with it, but when its a "minority" who might not even belong here we look the other way. Chief Rilling should be having our officers actively root out people here illegally exactly we do for other criminal networks. To not do so is to say its ok to break the laws here. Our governor should be impeached anyway, in HIS city of Stamford they actually have designated areas for people to loiter all day waiting for a work. That in itself is fine, but as a requirement to be there they should need to prove they belong here.

lwitherspoon:

Ken, there is nothing stopping legal, natural-born US Citizens who need jobs from waiting on the roadside on MLK Drive to get work as a day laborer. I would think as native English speakers they'd have a big advantage over the Latinos.

CT Patriot:

Deport them all no matter what the offense. They should have to take their children with them too.Illegal immigration is destroying this country. Its been building for years and its really starting to reach its stress point now. How long did everyone think this could go on? Taking, taking, taking from the system and putting nothing, nothing, nothing into it? Lets see you do that with YOUR bank account and see how long it lasts before you run out of money. Tell you what...lets all go tot he supermarket and let the illegals take what they want off the shelf and put it in their cart and then just walk out the door with it for free, then the rest of us in the store will pool our money together and pay for it in addition to our own food. Sound good? Great.... then vote for Obama again. Idiots. BTW is case you havent heard he wants to make sure they get to vote in Texas without showing that they have the right to vote first. Just a wonderful President don't you think?

DavidA:

Illegal immigration is not a "minor offense", it has far reaching effects. Enforce the law, by enforcing the border, and then we won't have to read any more stories about how unfair it is later.

rickaroo:

When everyone complains about how bad our schools are, do we really think it's the teachers and the administrators? Tell you what, lets swap all the teachers from one school in New Canaan with one school in Norwalk and give it 5 years. The average class in a grade school in Norwalk will have about 70% hispanics, 20% AA and 10% caucasian. Note that some kids will simply "go home" for 5-6 weeks during the school year.

norwalk citz:

they should be able to ask them for i.d. you shouldnt have to wait to arrest them to deport them just go down to the bridge and start asking for i.d. why should my tax money pay for them to live here im with bct if i dont pay my taxes i will lose my house and go to jail so why is it that is not crime enough for them all to be questioned

catdog:

You can't just listen to the laws you feel like and disregard the others. Sorry.

BCT:

We are a nation of laws but according to Mr. Meyerovich, if I decide to stop paying my taxes (which would greatly improve my life) as long as I was not a threat to society, that income could simply be considered 'undocumented' without consequence. The same goes for health insurance. Who needs it; just walk into the emergency room and get everything for free; paid for by those who apparently foolishly do follow the law and pay taxes. Car insurance; who needs that responsibility if I cause an accident. The point is not that we don't want good hard working people coming to this country. The point is do it legally and pay your fair share.

soch21:

" no one is illegal"... LOL....

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