ACLU et al: Stop Profiling…and by the way, Don’t Enforce Immigration Laws

H 5237, promoted by the ACLU and the Rhode Island Civil Rights Roundtable and sponsored by Reps. Almeida, Diaz, Ajello, Handy, and Slater, will create the “Immigration Status Protection Act” and change the “Racial Profiling Prevention Act” of 2004. It is a true gem of self-contradiction. But I’ll get to that.
First, though, as the ProJo reports (Amanda Milkovits), the hearing on this bill revealed that the police feel as if they’ve been double-crossed and aren’t going to simply grin and bear it.

For years, local police chiefs and civil-rights activists have worked together on efforts to combat racial profiling. But in January, civil-rights leaders decided on their own to pursue legislation.
Among its key points, the bill would ban “pretext” traffic stops, forbid the police from searching juveniles without consent and ban the police from asking people about their immigration status except in extremely limited circumstances. The bill also would prevent the police from asking for passengers’ identification during routine traffic stops.
The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association says many of the bill’s measures would severely handicap police officers from properly doing their jobs. After weeks of trying to negotiate a compromise, the association has given up, calling the bill “a deal-breaker.”
The chiefs also say the bill flies in the face of federal law and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, and upsets the delicate balance between civil rights and public safety.
…McCartney, the Warwick police chief, said the chiefs association was blind-sided by the bill and ACLU report. After the bill was submitted, the Civil Rights Roundtable invited the police chiefs to negotiate. The chiefs declared an impasse after two months. “I told them at the third session, ‘You’ve put us in the position of being the bad guys and naysayers, but you people changed the playing field,’ ” McCartney said.

So, as if the contentiousness surrounding the profiling issue wasn’t enough, the sponsors of the bill decided to also throw in some guidelines severely restricting the ability of police to identify and detain illegal immigrants. Or did they. I don’t really know. You read this section of the bill and try to figure it out:

In section 12-28.1-2 of the bill, it states:

No state or local law enforcement officer or agency shall inquire of an individual, or seek documentation from him or her, about his or her immigration status, unless otherwise required by federal law or court order, or necessary to verify the immigration status of a person who is arrested for a felony and the officer or agency has reasonable grounds to believe that the person’s status is in violation of immigration laws; provided, however, an arrestee’s race, color, ethnicity or national origin shall not constitute reasonable grounds.
(b) No law enforcement officer shall use an arrest or criminal charge as a pretext for verifying the immigration status of a person.

And section 12-28.1-3

No law enforcement agency of the state of Rhode Island or of any political subdivision shall use agency funds, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation or alleged violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship who are in violation of federal immigration laws.

OK, that means no RI funds, which doesn’t exclude federal funds…but then

No law enforcement agency of the state of Rhode Island or of any political subdivision shall enter into an agreement with the federal government to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law pursuant to 8 U.S.C. section 1357(g) or any similar federal program.

The reference to 8 U.S.C. section 1357(g) is key because therein lies the ability of the Federal Government to make the type of deal with the State that this bill is trying to negate. In other words, they want to make it illegal for the State of Rhode Island to be able to make such a deal with the Federal Government. “Amnesty State” anyone? But back to the confusion…the real kicker, from section 12-28.1-5

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit any state or local law enforcement officer or employee from cooperating with federal immigration authorities as required by federal law.

Whaaa…? I’m not a lawyer, but…
Finally, there is this bit of self-interested law making on the part of the organizations (and lawyers) that are “looking out” for these constituents:

(a) Any individual who alleges a violation of section 12-28.1-2 may file a civil action for damages and any appropriate and equitable relief in superior court. The court may allow a prevailing plaintiff reasonable attorneys’ fees as part of the costs. (b) An organization chartered for the purpose of combating discrimination, racism or of safeguarding civil liberties, or of promoting full, free or equal employment opportunities, may seek appropriate relief in a civil action against any police department for violating section 12-33 28.1-3, and may be awarded its costs, including attorneys’ fees, for bringing such an action.


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Terry Gorman
Terry Gorman
17 years ago

A heartfelt THANK YOU !!!!!Today was the first I’ve time I’ve read your articles. Great job !!!
Terry Gorman
Exec. Dir.
Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement ,

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