Latest Op-ed | “CT Not Immune to Democrats’ ‘Open Door’ at Southern Border” (April 2024)

April 2, 2024

Op-ed as published by the CT Examiner:


The nationwide conversation on illegal immigration has reached a fever pitch. In addition to the thousands of migrants seeking a better way of life in the U.S., the nation has witnessed the sustained effects of other illegal immigrants who have entered with nefarious intent. Earlier this year, the nation learned of the murder of an innocent 22-year-old nursing student, Laken Riley, at the hands of an illegal immigrant who was also a known gang member.


The details of the incident were gruesome. Equally repulsive is the fact that Laken Riley’s killer, an illegal immigrant, was previously known to federal and local authorities for having unlawfully entered the country. Shockingly, he was then released. Subsequent reports indicate that he was eventually arrested in New York City but was released once again—ultimately going on to take Laken Riley’s life in Georgia.


In January, seven illegal immigrants were indicted after viciously attacking NYPD officers in Times Square, yet they were released without bail. New York City had been known as a sanctuary city until Mayor Eric Adams recently made changes to related policies.


Tragically, stories like this have become all too common in the U.S. The Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) website provides ample evidence of incidents where illegal immigrants have harmed or killed innocent American citizens. It is a situation that should not persist.


I have consistently warned my colleagues and the public that it’s not a matter of “if,” but rather “when,” Connecticut will experience the effects of an unsecured southern border. While some may accuse me of fear mongering, the headlines and trends are clear to reasonable observers. Just last month, the U.S. Department of Defense, under President Biden’s administration, acknowledged the likelihood of a mass migration of Haitian nationals due to ongoing unrest in their home country. The pressing question remains: How many of these migrants will have criminal backgrounds?


Despite the flashing red warning lights that should accompany large-scale illegal immigration, progressive states like Connecticut seem to be activating neon welcome signs, inadvertently incentivizing unlawful entry.


The journey began in 2014 with the legislature’s passage of “Drive-Only” licenses specifically tailored for illegal immigrants—a bill I consistently opposed and later unsuccessfully fought to repeal. Since then, Connecticut has introduced several other incentives within its laws.


What’s even more concerning is that Connecticut Democrats have taken the stance of not only incentivizing illegal immigrants but also welcoming those with criminal records into our state.


It’s time for a balanced approach—one that acknowledges the humanitarian aspects of immigration while safeguarding our communities. We must find common ground to address this complex issue without compromising safety or the rule of law.


In 2019, Connecticut effectively transformed into a “Super Sanctuary State” by expanding the “Trust Act” (PA 19-20). This law prohibits cooperation between state law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Despite my lengthy debate with colleagues on the Senate floor, Democrats voted along party lines to include these protections for individuals with felony convictions, known gang affiliations (such as MS-13), those on terrorist watch-lists, and even those already subject to final deportation orders. Would a reasonable person on Main Street consider this beneficial for our state or nation?


Fast forward to 2021, when legislative Democrats enacted the infamous “Clean Slate Law.” This law quietly adds further insulation for criminal illegal aliens. How? In addition to erasing criminal records, it also reduces the maximum prison sentence for misdemeanors by just one day—from one year to 364 days. Why this seemingly arbitrary change? Because 365 days is the threshold triggering eligibility for deportation. The implications are clear. This policy shields criminals who also happen to be illegal immigrants.


Moreover, progressives in the legislature have thrice extended the age at which illegal immigrant children can access the state’s free healthcare program (HUSKY). Initially, it was for children younger than eight, then expanded to age 19, and now they are pushing to extend it to age 25.


Rather than reconsidering these policies considering the escalating national conversation, state agencies—under the direction of Democratic leadership—are doubling down.


In February, I issued a warning to residents and fellow lawmakers regarding the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) reporting an unexpected influx of illegal immigrants across Connecticut. In January, the agency even requested municipalities to identify “Temporary Municipal Locations” (TML) where illegal immigrants could find shelter for up to 24 hours. During this time, a “state migrant response task force” would assess their needs and arrange services such as transportation and housing. Yes, the state is essentially asking towns to be prepared to accommodate potentially busloads of illegal immigrants.


The compassionate intent behind this approach is evident—to care for our fellow humans in need. I wholeheartedly support that sentiment. However, we cannot prioritize this at the expense of our neighbors’ safety or the well-being of innocent illegal immigrants who arrived here without criminal intent.


Connecticut’s policies over the past several years have created an attractive nuisance for criminal illegal immigrants, putting residents at risk. These policies not only invite criminal activity but also contribute to system abuse. Furthermore, they marginalize genuine asylum-seekers and other immigrants who seek lawful paths toward achieving the American Dream.


The moment has arrived for municipal government leaders across Connecticut to confront a critical decision. Should they persist in adhering to unconstitutional state statutes that obstruct their compliance with federal immigration law—the true law of the land? Alternatively, can they prioritize the safety of their residents by reestablishing cooperation with federal immigration authorities? Connecticut’s state laws, which defy federal supremacy, not only violate constitutional principles, but put American lives at risk. The repercussions of cities refusing to adhere to federal immigration law are evident nationwide, and Connecticut is not immune to similar consequences.


The number one obligation of government is the safety of its citizens. The current policy of this administration is contrary to the safety and welfare of Connecticut residents.


Like any rational American, I am in favor of increasing border security to protect our citizens and ensuring a mechanism to keep out human traffickers, drug dealers, gang members, and terrorists. Simultaneously, we must allow those we have thoroughly screened—and who wish to be contributing members of our society—to become part of and benefit our nation.


Congress needs to put aside petty differences and unscrupulous motivations and get the job done. I urge you to help me make the case here in Connecticut that we residents have had enough of the state’s unworkable policy on illegal immigration.