The Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund Gubernatorial Debate: Question About Illegal Immigration
The third question asked at Wednesday night’s debate hosted by the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund at CCRI’s Liston Campus Auditorium was from Roberto Gonzalez, who asked about illegal immigration, specifically whether candidates believed it was the paramount civil rights issue of this decade, and what were the candidate’s positions on E-Verify, the Governor’s Executive Order, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and the Arizona immigration law. Mr. Gonzalez also asked what candidates would do to encourage minority participation in decision making bodies in Rhode Island.
Unofficial transcripts of the answers offered by the candidates are available via the links below, listed in the order that the candidates spoke.
Frank Caprio: I’ll go through all of your specific questions, but let me say up front about immigration, you know I announced my candidacy a few weeks ago on the Fields Point state pier off of Allens Avenue. It’s now a small business, but when my grandfather immigrated to this country, there was an orderly process for immigrants to arrive, to be documented, and to become citizens. We had a port of entry right here in Providence. It was the fifth largest port of entry in the United States at the time, and I thank God every day that that was there, because it provided a great opportunity for my grandfather and others….What is going on in our country right now is a shame, in that we do not have a path to citizenship, or the Federal government stepping up to have an answer for this pressing issue, and I fault Washington for that. Let me answer your specific questions.
The Arizona law I’m against.
The executive order, I would keep in place, because that is enforcing the current laws of our land.
In-state tuition, with three years of high-school, I’m in favor of that.
And businesses should be E-Verifying. We should not be having businesses taking advantage of those who are most vulnerable.
Jump to Frank Caprio’s follow up.
Patrick Lynch: Let me get right to it…Is immigration the number one civil rights issue in America? I believe it is. If you look at a society that becomes more and more divided, there are more hate groups in America right now than there ever have been before. While we’ve made great achievements with an African-American president, and taken such strides, and the makeup of our state has changed so dramatically and beautifully and the census will show even more of that, we’ve become more divided as a society. I’ve spent a great deal of time, my first issue when I came into office as the Attorney General was creating an office of Civil Rights to preserve that in the office in law. It had not been created before and sadly, realistically we turn to it time and time again to stand up and protect people on housing issues…to push back both criminally through hate crimes and additionally through actions we can now take because I stood up for a civil rights advocate and that will be conserved in law.
The executive order, I couldn’t disagree with more. This governor has a knack for putting out some cold-hearted, poorly-calculated, perhaps unintentionally-hurtful documents. That is one of them. I would get rid of that on day one of my administration.
In terms of Arizona, again, from a national basis, when the Federal government fails to act, which it has…Arizona laws are those types of laws that come up. It is not only hurtful and insulting, but in my estimation, legally it is unconstitutional. I find it very unfortunate that it was filed, although any bill can be filed. I would not only veto it, I wouldn’t wait that long. I’d be downstairs fighting to make sure it never passed, God-forbid it is submitted again.
The issue of in-state tuition: I don’t know if Representative Diaz is here, and the others who have worked on it, I want to commend them. Grace Diaz has been a tremendous leader…My office is reviewing it right now. I have significant concerns because of the incredibly conservative court, that if we just pass the law, and we send it up there to be challenged, that we’re going down the wrong path. Instead, we have to establish policies that display intent.
Jump to Patrick Lynch’s follow up.
Victor Moffitt: First of all, immigration is a very important issue. I believe that this country should look at its entire immigration laws and find new ways to expand them, so more people can get into the country legally and not have to get into the country illegally.
As far as the Governor’s executive order, I would continue to support it because I believe that every state has the right to protect its citizens and its jobs for the legal people that are here.
As far as the Arizona law goes, again, this is a 10th amendment issue. States have the right to protect the people that live in their state, against people who are illegally in the state. I think that everybody in this room is legally here. We want to pass those laws to protect your jobs. A lot of you may be out of work. Some of the people that have your jobs my be illegal people, that are not here properly.
In-state tuition: I’m happy that Representative Diaz has promoted this in the past, but I believe that tuition is for students who should be legally here. Those students that are in Rhode Island deserve to have a break because they live here legally in Rhode Island.
And finally, I totally support e-verify. I have no problem with it. I do not believe it is racial profiling. I just think it is something that needs to be done to verify that when you are hiring someone that that person is a legal resident of the state.
Jump to Victor Moffitt’s follow up.
John Robitaille: I do believe that immigration is a significant issue, next to getting our economy back on track.
I do support the Governor’s executive order and would not rescind it, because it only does enforce laws already on the books, however with one exception: 287g with the state police, I would not do that. I would go with the Florida secure communities model which absolutely has safeguards against racial profiling embedded in.
As far as the Arizona style law, Arizona is not Rhode Island, I think there are components in that law that we could look at here in Rhode Island, but thank God we don’t have drug lords running and shooting at ranchers across our border.
With the Nevada law also, let me tell you what I would like to see happen. I think both of those cases should go all the way to the Supreme Court, and I think that the Supreme Court should rule on how the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is being interpreted in the United States. My opinion is that the Fourteenth Amendment was passed after the Emancipation Proclamation, which basically granted citizenship to freed slaves in the United States and made them citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment now, unfortunately, is being used to go around and by-pass immigration law, and I am against that interpretation of the Constitution. I know too many people who came here legally. Some are entrepreneurs who have started businesses, and I think that people who are here illegally diminish the citizenship status of those who stood in line and did it right.
As far as the tuition reimbursement, if that individual is not here legally, then my answer is no.
E-Verify, yes. There are 70,000 Rhode Islanders out of work in this state, and I think we sure ensure that anyone doing business in this state, taking a job, should be here legally.
As far as affirmative action goes, I was an affirmative action officer when I worked for Continental Can Company and I had responsibility for over 40 plants, and I ensured that everyone from every race and every sex had an opportunity for jobs and job progression within that organization, and in my administration, I will make absolutely certain that my administration mirrors the demographics of the community.
Jump to John Robitaille’s follow up.
Lincoln Chafee: Firstly, I have to respond to the attacks on my record as a deficit hawk and certainly as a Mayor who had to have a balanced budget for seven years. And then in the Senate, we were handed a surplus when I was in the United States Senate, and I voted against the $1.5 trillion tax cut. I voted against the war in Iraq that’s now costing us a trillion dollars. I voted against the $800 billion dollar prescription drug benefit, before we did any reforms to Medicare. There’s three trillion. There’s your deficit right there, my votes. It’s a very strong record of being a deficit hawk, which I’m very proud of.
And I do agree that this immigration issue does have to be addressed at the Federal level, and I was there during the Kennedy-McCain bill, which I was a co-sponsor of, which was a path to citizenship, which was a law that required people to learn English, and was a good law and had bipartisan support, Senator Ted Kennedy and John McCain from Arizona, a border state. I was a supporter of that. Unfortunately, that bill failed because instead we were talking about forbidding states from enacting their own gay marriage laws. We were talking about new abortion laws or flag burning. That was the summer when McCain-Kennedy should have been debated, but we veered off and talked about abortion and beating up on gays and flag-burning which wasn’t happening, it took three weeks to defeat a flag-burning amendment.
So to the specifics. Yes, I would repeal the executive order. One of my first acts as Governor would be to repeal the executive order.
I would not participate in E-Verify. Listen to the states that presently participate in E-Verify. Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. If it’s so great , why do only six states participate. Is that the kind of company we want, I don’t think so.
Secondly, the Arizona law, no, I would veto any Arizona-type law that came through the legislature.
And in-state tuition, yes, I think we should we should have undocumented citizens who have completed high-school go on to higher education, but unfortunately that rule comes from the board of higher education, and perhaps Mr. Caprio can work with some of the people he knows on the board of higher education, if indeed he is opposed to having an ban on in-state tuition for undocumented workers, to change that.
Jump to Lincoln Chafee’s follow up.
Todd Giroux: America is the land of opportunity, and we are all brothers and sisters. Immigration is community building at its most basic level. My family Giroux, we came from the northern border ourselves. As far as being generous to the folks that are here, with families, absolutely. I believe in a work-for-status so we can document and support folks that have families here.
I would veto any attempts at a type of Arizona law in the future.
I don’t think we’re ready for an in-state tuition program right now, it’s just too great a social burden on all of us.
E-Verify: I like the concept of E-Verify, mostly for reasons of terrorism and homeland security. I think it works on a Federal level and I would never support it to be expanded on a local level. Our local police force should focus on local crime, not profiling of any sort.
We are not a border state and, as brothers and sisters, we need to work together and build communities. We certainly don’t need to incite or create reasons to separate us. So again, we all need to work together.
Jump to Todd Giroux’s follow up.
Ken Block: As an employer in this state, I have helped two of my employees immigrate legally. I spent tens of thousands of dollars, and I got them H1B visas and green cards. And it is very difficult, as a business owner who has done everything per the letter of the law, to see a parallel immigration policy in place at the same time which operates under very different rules. I believe that illegal immigration is a problem that has to be solved and we do need the Federal Government to take the lead on it, and it’s very difficult for a state to do much, other than try to work through the framework and the rules we have in place right now. That’s the set-up for what we need to do, and once of things I believe strongly is that unscrupulous employers who take advantage of people who are here illegally have to be shut down. The arborist, whose illegal immigrant worker seriously hurt himself with a chainsaw, tried to have him deported, instead of trying to take care of the wounds that he suffered for him. There is not a healthy scenario here. We see the abuses in New Bedford. We have to protect the workers, we have to make sure that things are being done aboveboard. There are reasons that we have laws, and workmen’s comp and paying taxes and all of the other things that need to be there have to be there, so running down the list…
I think the Arizona law is asinine. There is no possible way that that law can begin to address the problem of illegal immigration. I believe it’s xenophobic and it doesn’t serve any purpose, except maybe from Arizona’s point, to prod the Federal government into doing something. Rhode Island shouldn’t be there, doesn’t need to do that, and it won’t solve the problem.
I do believe E-Verify can be a very effective way to stem the tide of illegal immigration. If the jobs aren’t here, which I believe is a big motivator for illegal immigration, then I believe illegal immigration will ease.
In terms of the Governor’s Executive Order, I would tweak the language significantly. I want to make sure that there isn’t any ability for profiling to factor into what needs to be done. It’s crucially important.
At the meet-and-greet that we just participated in, we spent about 15 minutes talking about in-state tuition, and the compromise that I was very please to have reached [with the questioner] was the idea that anybody who’s here illegally and in our school system who is in the process of becoming legal, through going through the right steps and has applied for their documentation, we should educate those children. But because of the financial straits that we are in, and because the stresses our educational system is already under, I don’t believe we can afford to educate all of the world’s children right now.
Jump to Ken Block’s follow up.
REBUTTALS REVISIONS EXTENSIONS
Frank Caprio: When I am Governor, I will communicate with the minority community very clearly. I will also have my wife communicate with the minority community, she will be the first First Lady to speak fluent Spanish.
As to Senator’s Chafee’s comments about prescription drugs and voting against the prescription drug benefit: I don’t know what you have against seniors, Mr. Chafee. You voted against the prescription drug benefit in Washington, and now, back home in Rhode Island, you want to put a new tax on prescriptions, as if the seniors are rolling in dough now. So, the failed policies of the past just aren’t going to work. If we’re going to get this state moving, it’s not going to be by putting new taxes on our seniors.
Patrick Lynch: After listening to some of those responses, I have to say, I wonder if it’s due process in America, but only due process for some, if it’s a land of opportunity, but only a land of opportunity for some. That’s not what I stand for, and that’s not what I stand up for everyday, as the Attorney General, as a lawyer, and certainly as a Governor going into the future. It’s about fairness, equality, and protecting all, and I think that is at the thrust of all of those issues that are brought up. The one that I didn’t get to address was participation, and I guess I would just turn to my administration, from the head of personnel Aida Crosson to the attorneys in my office….they are representative of our community. That’s what my administration would be all about. That’s what the new Economic Development Council, because I am going to combine housing with it, will be all about, the inclusion of the entire community. That’s what I’ve always stood for, that’s what I will stand for when my administration takes hold in January.
Victor Moffitt: Well first of all, we want to think of one thing and one thing alone. We have a U.S. Constitution and we have a Rhode Island Constitution. I just believe in one thing. Let’s just uphold our Constitution. If it’s not in the Constitution, let’s not do it. The people that wrote the Constitution wrote it very clearly. The people that want to come into this country, like I said earlier, let’s give more opportunities to expand our immigration quotas to let more people come in legally, so they don’t have to come under fences and in pick-up trucks across the borders. Give an opportunity to make it easier for people to get citizenship and let’s uphold our Constitution in this country.
John Robitaille: I just want to make one comment on in-state tuition. We are in a crunch, a real budget crunch, and we’re talking about higher education being underfunded. Let me tell you what really upsets me: we have veterans in this state who are homeless and living under bridges and we can’t afford to fund a department of Veteran Affairs. We can’t afford $50,000 to put flags on their graves for Memorial Day or $400 to engrave a dead soldier’s name on a monument. We have seniors who are being driven out of their homes because of oppressive property taxes. We are in tough times. We have got to look at cutting costs everywhere. We’ve got to look at every single program that we fund and make sure that it’s fair, make sure that it’s equitable, and I have to agree with the Attorney General, what he said earlier about reorganizing our priorities. And I have to tell you that, as far as I’m concerned, there are two grossly underserved populations in this state, and they are veterans and they are our senior citizens and we need to do more for them.
Lincoln Chafee: I lamented in my earlier comments the fact that the Congress didn’t pass Kennedy-McCain and of course I do think that was a mistake. But if I am elected Governor, I will be active in the National Governor’s Association in making this a priority for all 50 governors. I believe that all 50 of us do not want to see Arizona state laws passed in our legislatures. So if I am elected, I will be active in the National Governor’s Association to push Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform, similar to the Kennedy-McCain that I worked on when I was in the Senate.
And back to taxes of course: I’m running as an independent, and that was a courageous vote, to vote against the prescription drug benefit, because Rhode Island has one of the highest elderly populations in the country, I think we’re fifth highest per-capita in elderly. That was such a courageous vote. But I’m such a deficit hawk, because I care so much about not getting into these deficits, I took that courageous vote and I’ve argued with my colleagues that we have to reform Medicare first before we put this added brick, on the high, high cost of Medicare. And then finally, on my plan to expand the sales tax…I didn’t create the deficit that we all know is coming. We all know that’s coming in the 2012 budget. I didn’t create it, but I certainly want to solve it.
Todd Giroux: As you know I am also an independent candidate, and I think everyone here has the opportunity to demand of all candidates this year to follow my lead on civil rights protections. Many of us are part of minority communities. I also want to say that I’ve volunteered with the organization DARE. I have been door-knocking to put communities here in South Providence with translators. Folks that are in foreclosure in the Latino community are more vulnerable than many others to the language barriers and these leaders who have their existing positions have been serving well, thank you very much…The Treasurer’s office, the Attorney General, and the Governor, they have to be in-line to be extremely creative to keep people in their homes during this time.
Ken Block: While our recycled politicians are busy slinging mud at each other and arguing, I consistently answered the question, and I realized that I only missed one question, and that is what will you do about minority representation in my administration. I’m going to ask my paid staff to stand up in the back, please…Ms. Cantwell, Ms. Alverez, Ms. Hunsinger, and Mr. Pierce. I think that basically wraps it up for me.