Illegal Immigrants: Two State Cities Take Opposite Tacks
Commentary By MARK BOUGHTON
March 09, 2008
Illegal immigration has been and will continue to be a difficult challenge for our community, our state and our nation. While the federal government has failed at one of its fundamental responsibilities, securing our borders, many communities across the country have had to struggle with the effect of a failed federal policy. Danbury is no different.
In Danbury, immigrants have long been a solid and celebrated part of the social and economic fabric. We have citizens from almost every continent, and more than 49 languages can be heard spoken across the city. We wear our diversity as a badge of honor.
Illegal immigration is a complicated and emotional issue. Immigration is good for America and for our community. The effect of unchecked illegal immigration on a community, however, is profound.
recent investigative report revealed that Danbury Hospital spent millions for unreimbursed treatment of illegal immigrants. School enrollments are expanding beyond anticipated projections because of illegal immigration. There has been stress placed on our social services and pressure on our housing stock. We have also apprehended a number of individuals wanted for serious crimes outside the United States. A cottage industry of manufacturing fake documents has developed, as well as cases of human trafficking and hundreds of unlicensed, uninsured drivers on our city streets.
After much consideration, Danbury's common council approved the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Access program, which will enable several detectives in our police department to receive training from ICE. Once trained, the officers will have the authority to enforce immigration law as part of any criminal investigation.
The intended objective of our partnership is not to deport every person who has sought refuge or a better life in our country, but to add another critical piece to our law enforcement efforts by targeting criminals who are exploiting both legal and illegal immigrants. No one's civil liberties will be ignored, but recognition of such will not allow us to equivocate on our responsibility to law and order.
As a mayor, my responsibilities are to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of Danbury's residents. On Dec. 2, 2007, at 4 p.m., I took the oath of office for the fourth time as mayor. I pledged to uphold all of our laws in a fair and compassionate way without regard to the status, ethnicity or religion of our residents. It is my job to ensure that our police have access to training and to the proper law enforcement tools necessary to enforce the law.
As mayor, it is my responsibility to support federal law enforcement agencies when they are working to secure our country. Finally, as mayor, it is my responsibility to elevate concerns to our federal legislators regarding the impact of their failure to address this critical issue.
I'm honored to have served Danbury as mayor for the past six years. With a population of more than 80,000, our low crime and unemployment rates are outstanding. Our schools are exceptional and we enjoy a vibrant arts and cultural atmosphere. We have an advancing university, a world-class hospital, a business environment that is poised for continued growth, and an abundance of parks and recreation areas. This year, Danbury is proud to be hosting both the Nutmeg Games, Connecticut's version of the Olympics, and the Connecticut Film Festival.
Danbury will continue to celebrate its rich diversity and will continue to be both a lawful community and a welcoming community. A partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement will only preserve that and keep our city a wonderful place to live, work and be educated.
Mark Boughton is mayor of Danbury.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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