The town of East Haven has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by Latino residents. But perhaps the more significant part of the agreement, according to lawyers involved with the case, is that the town has agreed to greatly limit its enforcement of immigration laws and communications with national immigration authorities.
The settlement is the culmination of a civil rights lawsuit filed in 2010 in response to alleged abuses committed by East Haven police officers against Latino East Haven residents, including false arrest, assault, battery, discrimination, illegal search and seizure, and obstruction of justice.
Settlement discussions began in the fall of 2013 after the criminal prosecutions of four former East Haven police officers had concluded.
Yale University professor Michael Wishnie says East Haven agreed to adopt some of the strictest constraints on immigration enforcement of any city or town in the country. The police department “has agreed to limit questioning of persons about immigration status, enforcement of immigration detainers, making arrests based solely on violations of civil immigration law, and communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Wishnie, who heads the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School and is co-counsel in the case.
Immigration detainers are requests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that they be notified when local law enforcement authorities are holding undocumented immigrants.
“The agreement that was reached today will be a model for cities and towns across America,” said David Rosen, lead counsel for plaintiffs. “The plaintiffs in this case are ordinary people with extraordinary courage, and it was their good fortune, and mine, to work with a group of extraordinary law students from Yale who assisted in the settlement.”
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. says the town did not admit wrongdoing and called the settlement an important step forward. A town attorney says there could still be circumstances when East Haven authorities inquire about immigration status or hold a person who is not a U.S. citizen.
“This agreement ends the threat of protracted litigation, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and avoiding the potential risk of a large, adverse monetary judgment,” Marturo said in a prepared statement. “Perhaps most importantly, this agreement will provide necessary closure to a difficult and painful chapter in our town’s history.”