The ACLU of Rhode Island today urged officials in all 39 of the state's municipalities to adopt a comprehensive ordinance to protect their immigrant communities from constitutionally dubious federal immigration requests.

Many Rhode Island residents and public officials have expressed serious concerns about the federal administration's efforts to compel local jurisdictions to support its immigration agenda. A draft ordinance sent by the ACLU today to Rhode Island’s mayors, police chiefs and city councils includes such provisions as requiring judicial warrants before honoring ICE detainers; assisting crime victims who may be eligible for special immigration status; rejecting participation in a program, known as 287(g), that essentially deputizes local police to serve as immigration agents; and avoiding other forms of engagement in immigration enforcement that can adversely affect public safety and undermine good police-community relations.

In a letter accompanying the draft ordinance, the ACLU noted that "ordinances like this one promote public safety by maintaining and encouraging positive police-community relations. Residents serve as witnesses, report crime, and otherwise assist law enforcement. The foundation for this cooperation can often be destroyed when local police are viewed as an extension of the immigration system…” The ordinance, the letter added, “is fully consistent with federal law, and does not bar police officers from continuing to cooperate with ICE in enforcing immigration law when backed by judicial authority or otherwise properly mandated by federal law.”

Furthermore, the letter pointed out, many officials are unaware that they have no legal obligation to honor immigration civil detainer requests, and in fact, may face legal liability for doing so.  Recently, for example, the ACLU of Rhode Island successfully sued on behalf of a Providence resident and U.S. citizen who was subjected to a humiliating strip-search and held overnight by the RI Department of Corrections – the result of honoring an unlawful federal immigration detainer.

In response to the Trump Administration’s threat to withhold funds from jurisdictions that fail to direct resources towards federal immigration priorities, the ACLU of Rhode Island pointed out that the Administration is likely to encounter substantial constitutional hurdles if it attempts to follow through on that pledge. “The ACLU of Rhode Island is prepared to take action to protect municipalities that adopt immigrant-supportive policies and practices,” said Steven Brown, Executive Director. “We urge our officials to proactively protect all of Rhode Island’s residents and uphold the rights outlined in the Constitution.”

Full text of the letter sent to RI Municipalities.

Summary of the model immigrant protection ordinance.

Full text of the model immigrant protection ordinance.