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3/8: ACLU accuses probation officials of violating immigrants' rights
Released 09 March 2007  By John Christoffersen - Associated Press

ACLU accuses probation officials of violating immigrants' rights

By John Christoffersen, Associated Press
March 8, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --Immigrant rights advocates are accusing state probation officials of breaking the law by working with federal authorities to arrest illegal immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and other advocacy groups call the practice a "shameful subversion" of the purpose of probation to rehabilitate. They say it makes it less likely that people who are not citizens will comply with or accept plea deals involving probation.

"We think that it's inhumane," said Renee Redman, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut.

The ACLU and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic of Yale Law School sent a letter to state judicial officials Wednesday demanding that probation officers stop interrogating defendants on probation about their immigration status and facilitating arrests for immigration violations.

They contend probation officers lack the authority to gather such information and that the practice violates due process rights and a state privacy law.

The Judicial Branch needs time to review the letter before commenting, a spokeswoman said.

Several immigrants have found immigration agents waiting to arrest them when they appeared for meetings with their probation officers, according to the ACLU. The immigrants were on probation for drunken driving, an offense for which an immigrant cannot be deported, supporters said.

The arrests took place in recent months in Danbury, where local officials have cracked down on what they say is a wave of illegal immigration overwhelming the Fairfield County city. The arrests have sparked fear in the community and worries that immigrants will be reluctant to seek medical attention or report domestic violence, advocates say.

One of the men arrested has a wife and infant, supporters said. Most of the immigrants are imprisoned in other states, far from their families and lawyers.

Immigration officials and advocates disagree on the number of arrests.

The ACLU says it discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that state court officials have a policy of collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under a policy initially adopted in 2003, probation officers are told to assist ICE in "identifying, locating and facilitating the arrest of" immigrant probationers, the ACLU says.

Under state law, courts are prohibited from requiring defendants to disclose their immigration status, Redman said.

Telephone messages were left Thursday for Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and ICE officials.

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