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Islas freed pending deportation appeal; ‘double victory’ as Malloy signs TRUST Act into law

New Haven Register – July 20, 2013, by Luther Turmelle - Jose Maria Islas returned to Connecticut Friday, after the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency released him from a Massachusetts jail pending his appeal of a deportation order.

A tired but happy Islas stood on the steps of the New Haven People’s Center Friday evening as a small group of supporters held a rally in his honor. Islas, who has been in the United States since 2005 after entering the country illegally, began his day at a detention center in Boston with other undocumented immigrants the United States is seeking to deport

Megan Fountain, a volunteer with Unidad Latina en Accion, credited the public pressure on ICE officials created by more than 3,000 of Islas’ supporters including U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn.

“This movement started small and just got bigger and bigger,” Fountain said.

Islas’ case is being heard by the federal Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals. If the board declines to overturn efforts to deport Islas, the case will then be taken to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Fountain said.

Islas’ release came on the same day Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools or (TRUST) Act into law. The TRUST Act aims to discourage law enforcement officials from detaining undocumented immigrants when they report crime, either as witnesses or victims, so they may do so without fear of deportation. The act does so by placing limits on the federal Secure Communities program, which requires local and state law enforcement officials to share biometric information such as fingerprints and immigration status of detained individuals.

“The governor has been a longtime supporter of comprehensive immigration reform,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy said Friday. “All this does is extend to the local level what has been the policy of state law enforcement.”

Charges of conspiracy to commit robbery against Islas were dropped after witnesses put him elsewhere at the time of an incident in Hamden last year. Other lesser charges have been wiped from his record after he was granted accelerated rehabilitation.

Islas, who has a wife and child living in Mexico, said he came to America “out of economic necessity.”

“I did it because my mother was sick,” he said.

Ana Maria Rivera, a legal and policy analyst, called Malloy’s signing the TRUST Act and Islas’ release “a double victory.” But she said that with the ongoing federal immigration debate in Washington, those who seek to reform the law must not become complacent.

“Many advocate that increased border militarization must be part of the path to immigration,” Rivera said.

Islas, his sister, Juana, and her family will head to the nation’s capital Monday to meet with federal lawmakers about immigration reform and participate in a series of rallies with groups from all over the country.

“Other people facing detention and deportation must keep fighting,” Juana Islas Santiago said.

Herman Zuniga, director of Comunidad de Inmigrantes de East Haven, called the Obama administration “the worst in United States history” in terms of immigration issues. Zuniga’s organization represents the Ecuadorean community in East Haven.

“Everybody has the right to choose where they live, where they work,” Zuniga said. “Deportation in not the solution.”

Fountain said the Obama administration has set up a quota system to deport 500,000 undocumented immigrants from the United States each year.