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Letter to New Haven Mayor DeStefano about the Public Safety Risks of Releasing Names of the Cardholders of the Elm City Resident Card (Feb. 15, 2008)

Letter to New Haven Mayor DeStefano about the Public Safety Risks of Releasing Names of the Cardholders of the Elm City Resident Card (Feb. 15, 2008)

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James M. Thomas
February 15,2008
The Honorable John DeStefano, Jr.
City of New Haveu
165 Church Street
New Haven, CT 06510
RE: Application of Connecticut General Statutes §1-21 Oeble 191 to Freedom of
Information Requests Received bv the City of New Haven
Dear Mayor DeStefano:
I am writing in response to your letter dated November 2,2007, in which you asked me to
determine whether certain requested records arc exempt fi'om disclosure pursuant to Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 1-21 0(b)(19). Specifically, in three Freedom of Information Act (ForA) requests, the City
of New Haven (City) has been asked to disclose "any list maintained by the city of recipients of
the Elm City Resident Card, including names, addresses, !lnd photographs, as well as to
documents collected by the city in SUppOlt of the of such cards, including application
forms and related materials." r understand generic information related to
the program, bUlhas withheld documentation release the applicants' names,
photographs and addresses. . © \.::::j
Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(d) and 1-210(b)( 19), at the reqllest of, and after consultation with,
the chief executive officer of a municipal agency, I al1\ required to determine whether there are
reasonable grounds to believe that the disclosure of certain records "may result in a safety risk,
including the risk of harm to any person .... " Section 1-210(b)(19) contains a list of records, but,
under the staulte, such records "are not limited to" this list.
The Legal Advisor to the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
(DEMHS), Brenda Bergeron, has met with members of your staff, Assistant COlporation COlUlsel
Kathleen Foster and Community Services Administrator Kica Matos, on two occasions to review
the facts and materials provided by the City in connection with these FOIA requests. Ms.
Bergeron and I have reviewed this material and consulted with your representatives.
The City has provided extensive documentation (at least fOlllteen exhibits, mallY with multiple
sub-sections) demonstrating both the public safety purpose of the Elm City Resident Card
program and also the safety risk created by the disclosure of the records that have been requested.
This documentation includes:' affidavits from New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz,
Lieutenant Luis Casanova, New Haven Independent Editor Paul Bass, City staff members, and
City activist Jolll1 Lugo; web site threats against City residents by anti-immigration groups; other
FLOOR, HARTFORD, CT 06106-5042
The Honorable John DeStefano Page 2 February 15, 2008
violent threats against immigrants across the countty; a compact disc containing video and audio
clips of threats made against immigrants by anti-immigration groups; materials demonstrating the
public safety purposes of the Resident Card program; secondmy sources, such as social science
alticles, demonstrating the link between public safety and municipal identification card programs,
including a news article regarding the October 26, 2006 murder of an undocnmented New Haven
man; secondmy source materials regarding identity theft and stalking threats; examples of hostile
and threatening mail received by the Mayor's Office, and; threatening remarks made OIl a local
radio program in July of 2007,
Based on the illfonnation which you have provided, there appear to be two ways in which the
release of these records may result in a safety risk under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-2 10(b)(19), First,
you have provided extensive documentation that the ID card program is intended to, and does,
promote public safety, For example, in his affidavit, New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz
states that "1 have supPolied the program because undocumented residents of New Haven have
been and continue .to be vulnerable to crime, The municipal ID program supports our community
policing model and is a useful public safety tool. Ifthe names, addresses and other personal
infonnation of the applicants were to be made public, however, I believe that there would be a
risk of harm to those persons, especially our more vulnerable residents, including undocumented
IlIld/Ol: elderly persons and children." Exhibit 9, Item 1, New Haven Police Lieutenant Luis
Casanova indicates in his affidavit that, before the fD program, "robberies targeting
undocumented residents became so commonplace in Fair Haven that the victims began to be
called "walking ATMs." "Since the launching of the residel}t card program", immigrants are
now less concerned about telling an officer of their The card has, .. helped the
New Haven Police Depmtment with the crimes." "Palilyas a result of
the TD card .. , there has been a drop in and an increase in reporting among
the undocumented," Exhibit 9, Item 2, See 6, 7, 8, as well as Exhibit 2, Item 2,
Affidavit of Professor Edna Erez, ,<::::;
The materials you have provided also indicate, however, that one of the goals of these FOIA
requests is to close down the Resident Card program, For example, in an email, one of the
Southern Connecticut Immigration Refonn (SCtlR) members indicates "we will .. ,start up the
appropriate paperwork and FOI mly documents necessalY to stop the I.D, We will deploy,
organize and coordinate efforts with all who stand with us to disable this diabolicall.D. scam, .. "
Exhibit 3, Item 11, p, 4, See also Exhibit 13, Yale Daily News Editorial, Monday, September 24,
2007: "It's not hard to imagine that a Connecticut version ofthe infamous Minutemen might take
the oppOrtlmity to target and harass Hispanic names on the list ofID card holders, [Chris] Powell
mllst know this. He told a News reporter that he's aware the program may be canceled if the
infonnation is made public, precisely because the privacy of those who seek the assistance of the
ID card is of paramount importance."
Therefore, based on the materials that you have pl'Ovided, I conclude that releasing these records
may force the closing of the Elm City Resident Card Pl'Ogram, and that shutting down the
program may result in an increased safety risk to one or more individuals,
The second way in which the release of these records may result in a safety risk to one or more
persons under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-21 O(b )(19) is by creating a direct safety risk to the individuals
whose information would be revealed. You have provided a number of exhibits which
demonstrate a potentially lethal hostility towards the TD program and its applicants, For example,
Kica Matos, a New Haven City employee who helped to institute the program,received an email
stating "you need to be taken by United States Citizens and killed as the enemy combatant to this
nation that you are," Exhibit 2, Item 2, Paragraph 10, Chief Ortiz states that, because of
increasing hostility towards City Hall, he found it necessary to increase the level of security, and
that threats such as the one against Ms. Matos have been rep0l1ed to the FBI. Exhibit 9, Item I,
The Honorable John DeStefano Page 3 Febmary IS, 2008
Paragraphs 17 and 18. A community activist witnessed an anti-immigrant protester and SCtIR
member push a woman who was holding a baby while she stood in favor oflhe program.
Affidavit of John Lugo, Paragraph 5. Mr. Lugo and City employees provided affidavits that
SCtlR members have attempted to videotape applicants and employees, and have told Mr. Lugo
that they have all of his information, posting his photograph and biography on a website, as well
as driving by his home. Lugo Affidavit Paragraph 8, Exhibit 10. New Haven Tndependent Editor
Paul Bass states that he has had to delete 30-50 inappropriate comments on immigrants from his
blog, including one posted in the latter half of2007 in which the writer "vowed to 'hunt down'
immigrants if he could identify them through the municipal ID program." Exhibit II, Paragraph
14. City employee Len Aronow provided an email that he received in July of 2007 stating in
Palt "Whcnthey show up for an ID card shoot them dead or at least deport them immediately."
Exhibit 10, Item 1.
The Mayor has also received numerous threateningpie9fs of mail, including one that compares
the New Haven situation to the recent Newark murdersl<\>f four students. Exhibit 3, Item 13.
Other correspondence received by the Mayor letter that states "I can't
wait for the rioting breaks out [sic]. I have Rifle ready to go and won't hesitate to
use it to kill these rodents." Another have no respect for their ['criminal illegal
aliens'] rights, property or lives. Exhibit):?/1tems 5, 9. You have also provided video and audio
clips of local and national programs that describe violence against immigrants. For example, you
have provided several excerpts fi'om a local Connecticut cable program run in 2007, in which the
following statements are·made: "Is it up to us to kill these people?" 'They should be shot." "I
think there should be snipers in the windows" [when immigrants march.] Exhibit 5. You have
also provided national examples of violent hatred, including an excerpt from a July 2007 New
Jersey radio program in which the host, Hal Turner, comments on the New Haven ID program as
follows: "Perfect opportunity for drive-by shooting using a machine gun! I would laugh if a slew
of patriots got in their cars, drove up to the New Haven Municipal Building with machine guns
and ammunition, and opened fire on the lines of Illegal Aliens standing there. I would laugh even
harder if another patriot decided to pull a 'Timothy McVeigh' and park a truck bomb in front of
that building to wipe out the scumbag traitors running that city, wllo approved ill cards for these
criminal invaders. In my opinion, the illegal aliens deserve to be killed and so does the Mayor
and City Council of New Haven Connecticut for siding with the illegals." Email from Kathleen
Foster to Brenda Bergeron, dated February 11, 2008, quoting Mr. Turner.
Given the foregoing, I find that there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the
records in question may result in a safety risk as described in the cited FOIA exemption, Conll.
Gen. Stat. §1-210(b)(J9). Therefore, I hereby direct you to withhold the exempt records from the
requesting pmties in these matters.

./ //
/ '<J
( J mes M. Thomas
'-- ommissioner

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