An estimated 3,500 people attended a rally on Feb. 6 in Danbury, Connecticut, to protest a partnership between Danbury police and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While the demonstrators voiced their opposition outside City Hall, inside the Common Council voted 19-2 to invite ICE to train and deputize Danbury police as immigration agents. Mayor Mark Boughton, who backs the plan, said it will start with the training of two detectives to carry out investigations of immigrants suspected of human trafficking, drug smuggling or document fraud. (News-Times, Danbury, Feb. 7; Hartford Courant, Feb. 7)
Protesters carried signs and chanted “Stop 287,” a reference to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows ICE to train and deputize state and local enforcement agents to identify and detain people for violating immigration law. (AP, Feb. 6) Section 287(g) was introduced as part of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). (ICE Fact Sheet: “Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act,” Aug. 16, 2006)
City officials decided in advance to limit attendance at the council meeting to 120 people, not including council members, news reporters and city employees. More than 30 police officers were deployed outside the building, but police reported no arrests. (News-Times, Feb. 7; Hartford Courant, Feb. 7) Some city businesses closed their doors for the day to protest the enforcement plan. (AP. Feb. 6)
Most of the demonstrators were from Danbury, but the crowd also included people who came by bus from Hartford and New Haven. “This is what being an American is all about, fighting for your rights,” said Fernanda Franco, of Bethel, a legal Brazilian immigrant who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the rally. “I waited 20 years to get my papers,” Franco said. “Some of these people have waited even longer.” (News-Times, Feb. 7)
Danbury has a greater proportion of foreign-born residents than any other community in Connecticut, according to US census estimates. Ted Duarte, a union carpenter who works in Danbury and traveled to the rally from Wallingford to support fellow union members, motioned to the chanting. “This says it all,” he said. “For a city council that supposed to represent the city of Danbury, they should take a look out here—this is Danbury.” (New York Times, Feb. 7)
From Immigration News Briefs, Feb. 10
See our last post on the politics of immigration.