The city council staked its ground Monday in the immigration debate, unanimously approving an ordinance that bars police from inquiring about immigration status.
The ordinance, if signed by Mayor Eddie Perez, would prevent police from arresting or detaining anyone solely because immigration authorities had issued an administrative warrant for them, which is a civil matter.
The ordinance also prohibits other city employees from asking anyone seeking services about their immigration status.
Councilman Pedro E. Segarra called the decision "bold and courageous" and said he was impressed by the dozens of people in the city who spoke in favor of the proposal at a public hearing last month. There was no opposition.
Segarra said he did not support illegal immigration, but had to respond to the needs of people living in the city. He said that opponents who contacted him since the proposal received media attention lived in the suburbs or as far away as Texas.
"My responsibility as a council person is to the residents of Hartford," he said. "I'm not responsible for securing our borders. I'm not responsible for issuing visas."
Although Perez has said he supports the concept behind the ordinance, it is not clear whether he will sign it.
He has maintained that an order issued by Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts in March that said city police would not make immigration arrests unless there was also a criminal investigation was adequate.
In a letter to the council Monday, Perez expressed concern about "codifying standards for internal police matters in the city code."
Councilman Luis Cotto, who introduced the ordinance, said it was important to pass it so illegal immigrants could be confident they can cooperate with police in criminal investigations without fear of being deported.
Gerry Pleasent, a retired Hartford deputy police chief, opposed the ordinance, saying it was tantamount to usurping the role of the federal government.
"We cannot have each city running around implementing its own immigration ordinance," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at