Boughton: I’ll Leave City Alone On Immigration

Paul Bass Photo If Mark Boughton proceeds with a run for governor, he plans to show his face in New Haven. Even though he’s a Republican. Who has made a national reputation as an anti-sanctuary city mayor.

Boughton, who’s 53, has served as Danbury’s mayor for 16 years. He served in the state legislature before that. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2010.

He has formed an exploratory committee to set the stage for another run for governor in 2018.

As an urban mayor, he said, he fully intends to campaign in cities like New Haven, even though other statewide Republican candidates tend not to waste their time here.

“I’m here to listen more than talk. Residents of New Haven need to be listened to,” Boughton said in an interview on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

In the interview, Boughton came out for more state investment in job training, which he called the real challenge (as opposed to high taxes) that caused GE to flee Connecticut; against reinstituting tolls or instituting a single-payer health care program; against raising the minimum wage or legalizing marijuana; and against having joining a compact with other states to cast electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections.

He came prepared to answer the question that will probably face him most here in New Haven, a proud sanctuary city: To what extent he’ll replicate his tough-on-immigrants policy in Danbury if elected governor. He said that while he disagrees with New Haven’s policies, he is comfortable letting President Trump handle immigration and sticking with Connecticut’s “status quo.”

Following are excerpts from the discussion:

Sanctuary Cities

WNHH: In Danbury, you cracked down on Ecuadorean immigrants…. You were on Fox News talking for a tougher immigration stance. Our previous mayor was on national TV saying we want to be a sanctuary city.

Where are you standing on that now? Are you for the Trump administration’s [pledge to defund sanctuary cities]? Or the governor of Texas’s [bill-signing] this week [that will] outlaw sanctuary cities and put local officials in jail if they don’t cooperate? What would you do as governor?

Boughton: I think putting people in jail is a little extreme. I just want to say that. But I would say that, look, it’s not good to have cities or towns or counties deciding their own immigration policy. It’s just really bad public policy. So I don’t support sanctuary cities.

We have the TRUST Act in Connecticut. We abide by the TRUST Act, which gives us specific areas where we can work with Immigration Control …

Trump considers that a sanctuary city policy …

I don’t. If you really look at the statute, there’s flexibility in there for our police officers to cooperate with ICE on cases that matter, i.e., human trafficking, sex trafficking, horrible crimes that are exploiting people. We want these agencies talking together. So I don’t really see it that way. I think there’s plenty of latitude.

But I think if we have all these different places deciding immigration policies, that’s really bad. Understand, we’re spending almost trillions to get people to come into the country legally. When states set their own policy, we’re encouraging people to illegally cross the border.

Would you follow [Texas] Gov. [Greg] Abbot, separate from the issue of throwing officials in jail? Would you favor a state policy that would ban sanctuary cities?

No, I’m pretty happy with the status quo.

You’re OK with New Haven doing what it’s doing and Danbury doing what it’s doing?

I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s the right policy. I think the arguments that I’ve heard are spurious — “Oh, people will be afraid to go the police station.” I know that’s not true. Danbury’s the safest city in the state.

But in New Haven we do have many cases of immigrants who were not talking to police before but now do.

But you can get a visa for that.

If you’re a victim of childhood violence. I’m talking about somebody who gets mugged because he doesn’t have a bank account …

We just haven’t had that experience. We’ve been able to send the message very clearly: “Look, if you’ve been a victim of crime, we want you to come to the police station. We’re not going to throw you in jail and have you deported.”

Now if you did the crime, you’re going to be thrown in jail and deported.

The Drug War & Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made a major [decision Tuesday] that is going to affect our state and your city quite a bit. He said he’s going to reverse an Obama administration policy to avoid seeking mandatory minimum jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. You’ve run a city for 16 years … What do you think about the Sessions reversal? Is it a good idea for Connecticut? Is it a good idea for Danbury?

Generally, I favor treatment for folks that are addicted, right? The challenge here is to be able to divide the users and horribly addicted people form the dealers and those folks involved in … distribution. That’s really the break point. I certainly have no problem with lowering and lessening mandatory minimums for persons that are addicted or for habitual users, that’s good, but you’ve got to provide some kind of outpatient treatment for them or they’re going to go back to the petty crime that got them into it in the first place. The state has to be committed to provide important services to help people who are addicted. They don’t belong in jail. They belong in treatment centers. There’s no doubt in my mind.

And you’ve got to be willing to make that investment.

Are you saying you would stick with mandatory minimums, just make them more flexible and back it up with more treatment money? Or would you agree with people who say, “we really need an active policy of seeking alternatives to incarceration in general, and that mandatory minimums tie judges’ hands too much, and there should be more discretion?”

I think that there can be more flexibility and more discretion in mandatory minimums, especially as it relates to those people that are addicted. There might not even be room for a mandatory minimum with someone that’s demonstrated a history of being addicted, godforbid, to opiates or whatever the issue is.

I think mandatory minimums are perfectly appropriate for dealers, traffickers, those people that are preying on people who are addicted. Those people are the worst scourge of this country. And they deserve to be in jail. I don’t have a problem with that.

But it’s all for nought if you don’t provide a significant drug treatment program. And that’s a significant investment by the state to do that. And that means treatment centers, it means getting people in them, then helping those folks reintegrate into society and find jobs and lead productive lives. If you’ve worked with that population, it’s heartbreaking, the number of people who go back to using…

I don’t know the answer to this question: In your experience in Danbury, do you find that there’s a lot of crossover, that people who are dealing are addicted?

That’s an interesting study that ought to be done. I’m not sure how many people use and actually sell. I don’t think if you’re a user you can really go very far in that chosen career field if you’re using your own product. We know who the hardcore dealers are out there, and those folks can’t be put in jail fast enough.

The Comey Firing

What did you think of the latest episode of The Apprentice?*

The president certainly has the right to do what he did, no question about that. If he or anyone in his administration believe that somehow they’re going to decapitate the investigation into any connections with Russia, they’re fooling themselves. Jim Comey can come and go. The reality is the investigations will go. If anybody did anything wrong, that will come out.

As a tactic to get yourself out of a jam, I don’t think it works too well. I think the optics were pretty bad.… The timing was pretty poorly executed as well. Having said all that, he has the right as president to do that.

Should a president be firing an FBI director who’s investigating him?

Well, the FBI director doesn’t investigate anyone. His agency does. Those investigations take place under the auspices of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The U.S. attorney is the quarterback, the lead investigator.… If this is some kind of cover to get yourself out of an investigation, I don’t think it works.

Do you think it was?

No. I just don’t think this was well timed. If you want make this change, do it in January.

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions: Friend or foe to Connecticut?

Geez, I don’t know.

I’m getting you ready to come to New Haven ...

Huge. Huge. I’ll have to think about that. Bigly.


* This interview occurred before reports of Trump allegedly asking Comey to go easy on an appointee in the Russia investigation.

Click on or download the above audio file to hear the full interview with Mark Boughton on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH “Dateline New Haven” interview with Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, who is also “exploring” a gubernatorial run; and click here to read a story about the interview.

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