Groups Urge Federal Government to Reject State Police Request to Enforce Immigration Laws

Posted: Jul, 23, 2009

Citing almost two decades’ worth of data showing significant racial disparities in the enforcement of traffic laws by the R.I. State Police (RISP), eight civil rights and community organizations have urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials not to give RISP the legal authority to enforce federal immigration law. RISP has sought such permission pursuant to the “immigration” executive order that Governor Carcieri issued last year.

The eight-page letter sent to ICE officials from the RI ACLU, the Urban League of RI, the International Institute of RI, Direct Action for Rights and Equality and others, traces a lengthy history of alleged racial profiling by the State Police, and argues that giving RISP the power to enforce federal immigration law would only exacerbate this critical problem. Among the data cited by the groups:

Despite this consistent and rather overwhelming data over a lengthy period of time, the letter to ICE notes that State Police officials repeatedly reject the findings made of the data, and continue to deny that any problem of racial profiling exists.

Finally, the letter also cites the findings of an advisory panel set up by the Governor last year, which found that “actions taken by law enforcement agencies after the issuance of the [immigration executive order], have served to create some apprehension, and have also significantly reinforced an environment charged with fear.”

The letter concludes by stating:

“It is with this background and in this climate that ICE is considering whether to grant 287(g) authority to the Rhode Island State Police. In light of the detailed information contained herein – documenting beyond dispute, we believe, evidence indicating widespread racial disparities in traffic stop enforcement by the State Police; the agency’s repeated and on-going failure to acknowledge the existence of such profiling; and the fear within the immigrant community that has been generated by the executive order leading to this 287(g) request – we respectfully urge your agency to reject this application.”

The groups signing the letter were: the RI ACLU, the International Institute of RI, the Urban League of RI, the Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy, Olneyville Neighborhood Association, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, the Providence Human Relations Commission, and Ocean State Action. The letter was prompted by action earlier this year by ICE giving the state Department of Corrections so-called 287(g) authority.