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Friday, June 15, 2007

New Haven's immigration saga goes to court

As a resident of Danbury, I've seen this situation too many times...
The 15 people who were led one by one through a Hartford federal courtroom Thursday were exactly where their families and friends feared they could end up: facing an immigration judge, shackled at the waist, hands and feet, accused of being in the country illegally.


Thursday's deportation proceedings, which were continued until next week, were a subdued episode in a series of incendiary events that began June 4, when New Haven approved creating a municipal identification card available to all residents, including illegal immigrants.


Attorneys from the Yale Law School Legal Services Organization had hoped to win the release of the 15 people in court Thursday by getting their $15,000 bail reduced.

But they settled for continuing the cases until next week. Visiting Judge Gary Malphrus said he needed more proof that the accused would return to court if released on bail.

Although the bail reductions were the focus of the hearing, Michael Wishnie, a Yale professor and immigration law expert, touched on a host of issues already raised by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and immigration activists.

He said the raids were retaliatory and that ICE violated its own rules by not notifying local police. Although ICE was looking for immigrants named in outstanding deportation orders, only four such people were arrested, he said.

Wishnie said attorneys will file motions to have the cases dismissed because agents entered homes without search warrants and some people arrested on the street were stopped based on their race or ethnicity.

Wishnie said the "extraordinary" support for those arrested within the community and the church many attended, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, plus their intention to fight the charges, justified lowering their bail so they could gain their freedom while the cases proceed.

There have been several rallies in New Haven since the raids. About 40 immigration activists protested outside the Ribicoff building Thursday and a much bigger rally is planned for Saturday in New Haven.

"We will litigate these cases fiercely," Wishnie said after the hearings.

Wishnie said an immigration judge in Boston had already reduced bail in two cases heard there, to $3,500 and $1,500.

There is one GOLDEN rule everyone MUST remember...you DO NOT have to talk to any ICE agent if they do not have a warrant for you. Time and time again, immigration lawyers say that a majority of people who are caught by ICE are captured because they incriminate themselves by admitting to ICE agents that you're undocumented. The situation in New Haven is a no different than the countless raids that are made in Danbury where people are picked up because they didn't keep quiet and request legal representation.

After you admit that you're in the country illegally, there really isn't that much you can do from a legal standpoint.