HARTFORD, Conn. — Federal agents in Connecticut have begun arresting all illegal immigrants as soon as they are ordered deported, rather than allowing them to remain free while they appeal.
The policy shift is a Department of Homeland Security pilot program intended to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who flee after being ordered out of the country, but some immigration lawyers contend that the change will have the opposite effect.
There currently are 400,000 active cases in the United States involving illegal immigrants who fled after deportation orders were issued, said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Nineteen immigrants to Connecticut have been detained since the pilot program began in early August, Bentley said.
Officials plan to analyze the results and consider implementing it nationwide after the end of the program, scheduled for Sept. 30.
Typically, an illegal immigrant who a judge has ordered deported but who has not committed another crime has been allowed to remain free while the order is appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Under the pilot program, immigrants are detained as soon as a deportation order is issued, although they can post bail.
"We're trying to make the judges' final decisions mean something more," Bentley said.
Hartford attorney Daniel Marcus, who has a client who was taken into custody, said the policy would encourage immigrants to skip court hearings and take their chances on the run.
"It would be the same effect across the country. You'll find fewer and fewer aliens showing up" in court, Marcus said.