Immigration Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years



Almost all of us are the offspring of immigrants to this country. Too often, however, the latest arrivals to our shore face widespread discrimination. When the government can deny legal rights to one group of people, everyone’s rights are at risk.  The ACLU works to ensure that the fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection apply to every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, place of origin, or spoken language.

Immigration in the News

  • Mar, 28, 2017: Statement on the U.S. Attorney General’s Threat to Punish “Sanctuary Cities”
  • Mar, 24, 2017: ACLU Sends Model Ordinance to All Rhode Island Municipalities; Urges Leaving Immigration to Feds
  • Feb, 02, 2017: ACLU of Rhode Island Files Demand for Documents on Implementation of Trump’s Immigration Ban

View All Immigration Related News Releases »

Immigration Related Court Cases

2014: Olneyville Neighborhood Association v. RI Department of Corrections, RI State Police
Category: Active Case    Immigration    Open Government    

This open records lawsuit seeks a court order waiving the significant fees the RI Department of Corrections and the RI State Police want to charge the Olneyville Neighborhood Association before turning over records relating to the state's cooperation with federal immingration officials. ONA filed open records requests with these agencies seeking information regarding enforcement of so-called Immigration and Customs Enforcement "holds" that facilitate the transfer of detainees from law enforcement to ICE custody in order to compile a report to be shared with the public. The Department of Corrections sought an estimated $593 for retrieving and copying the records, and the State Police demanded a pre-payment of $1,500 before searching for the documents. 

The open records law authorizes courts to waive fees when the information requested "is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government," and this suit argues that ONA's request meets that standard. 

Supporting Documents
2012: Morales v. Chadbourne
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Immigration    

"When I found out that I was being detained for immigration reasons, I was shocked,” U.S. citizen and North Providence resident Ada Morales said.  “I told the Rhode Island officials that I’m a U.S. citizen, and I offered to show them my naturalization certificate and passport, but no one would listen. They just assumed they could hold me because of my Guatemalan background and the color of my skin.” 

A lawsuit on behalf of the Ada Morales, a North Providence resident who has twice been detained as a deportable “alien” even though she is a U.S. citizen. The lawsuit alleges that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and Rhode Island officials often bypass Constitutional requirements and safeguards when they detain individuals on immigration grounds.

In February 2014, the U.S. District Court ruled that there are critical constitutional limits on the power of immigration and corrections officials to detain people while investigating their immigration status. In the opinion, U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. held that Ms. Morales “has set forth plausible allegations that she was unconstitutionally detained solely based on her national origin and Hispanic last name.”  In July of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld that ruling. The district court presently has before it motions for summary judgment, and the ACLU is awaiting a decision on those motions.

Cooperating Attorneys: Mark Freel, Erika Lindberg, Omar Jadwat, and Kate Desormeau

Supporting Documents

View All Rights of Immigrants Court Cases »

Related Legislation

State Enforcement of Immigration Laws
Category: 2017    Immigrants' Rights    

During March, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on three immigration bills, two of which were aimed to require assistance from state and municipal government in the enforcement of immigration laws. On the other hand, H 5515, introduced by Representative Shelby Maldonado, would set in place protections against any federal mandates to enforce immigration detainers. The ACLU as well as dozens of other individuals and organizations testified in opposition to H 5093 and H 5394 and in support of H 5515.

The ACLU has been a vocal opponent of any legislation or executive orders aimed at forcing municipalities or state police agencies to enforce immigration laws, noting their potential to increase racial profiling and lead to unauthorized arrests of individuals.

E-Verify (H 5195)
Category: 2017    Immigrants' Rights    

The ACLU of RI submitted written testimony in March to the House Labor committee in opposition to a bill making E-Verify use mandatory by Rhode Island employers, and in favor of a bill (H 5195) keeping the E-Verify program voluntary.  E-Verify is a federal program that allows employers to check the names of job applicants in a database to confirm their citizenship status. that The ACLU noted that E-Verify continues to be an error-prone system which disproportionately disqualifies legal workers with Hispanic and Arabic last names, is used by employers to discriminate against potential workers, and still fails to prevent undocumented workers from obtaining employment.