Milford advocacy group won’t pursue ‘Sanctuary City’ status for city

MILFORD >> A local advocacy group won’t pursue, for now, designating Milford as a “sanctuary city” after discussions with the city’s police chief, who said the state and city already have strong laws.

The subject, however, will remain on the table, said Jeanne Cervin, a steering member for the group “Milford Speaks Out.”

Although no formal designation exists for municipalities or other entities that consider themselves so-called sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, several states, such as California, New Mexico and Colorado, and some Connecticut cities such as New Haven, Manchester and Hartford, have codified, through an ordinance or other means, the practice of not honoring federal policies on immigration.

Middletown recently became a sanctuary city. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said he hasn’t — and doesn’t plan to — request an ordinance from the Common Council because it’s “really not necessary” since city police have not carried out that role — at least since 2011, when he first took office.

The Milford Speaks Out press release states that because of “increased detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants by the federal government,” group members met with Police Chief Keith Mello to discuss the city’s policy on undocumented residents.

Mello told the group, Cervin said, that the city’s police department is following Connecticut’s Trust Act regulations.

“The act, passed unanimously in 2013, allows state and municipal governments to submit to Immigration and Customers Enforcement — or ICE — requests to detain individuals only if there is a felony conviction, an outstanding warrant or if the individual is listed on the federal Terrorist Screening Database.” Cervin said the group visited the issue to prevent any “horrendous assault” by ICE, but it turns out “right now Milford is not in a vulnerable place” because of the strong laws, Cervin said.

“Border states (like Texas) are more vulnerable,” Cervin said, adding that in Milford, local police are not going to detain or go after undocumented immigrants at their homes, schools or places of business.

Connecticut was the first state to pass such legislation, the press release states.

The issue hit close to home for Milford residents in recent months when two family members of a popular restaurant owner were denied entry into the United States, due to President Trump’s initial immigration ban which affected refugees and nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Lawmakers and residents rallied around the family — there was a huge push by U.S. Sens.Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal — and so the story had a happy ending.

In an unrelated event, Milford Speaks Out, in partnership with the Milford Public Library, will co-host a presentation by Iman Sami Abdul Zahir on “Understanding Islam: Education for these turbulent times.” Amam Zahir, president of Common Ground Services, is the Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan University. The event, intended to remove possible misconceptions about the Muslim religion, will be held in the library program room ay 7 p.m. May 11 and is open to the public.

Milford Speaks Out is a grassroots organization that addresses environmental protection, immigration and refugees, public education, women’s health/the Affordable Care Act, diversity, and LGBTQ rights. Members of the group work with local, state and national organizations and with political leaders “to advance policies that reflect our shared values,” according to a press release from the group.