ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement on “sanctuary city” threats from the U.S. Attorney General.

“U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s threat to cut off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities is nothing but unseemly saber-rattling, designed to scare states and municipalities from protecting their residents from cruel federal policies. But there is no lawful basis for either the State of Rhode Island or any of its municipalities to worry.

“To the extent Sessions is stating that government entities must comply with a federal law known as 1373, neither Providence nor any other municipality has ever suggested that they would disobey that statute.  The statute prohibits states and municipalities from enacting policies that bar communication about an individual’s immigration or citizenship status with federal agencies.  However, the statute doesn’t require states or municipalities to collect information about or voluntarily report on an individual’s immigration or citizenship status in the first place.

“To the extent the Attorney General is stating that government agencies cannot have policies that refuse to honor civil detainer requests issued by ICE agents, he is engaging in nothing but fear-mongering. The state and municipalities not only have the right to refuse to honor those detainers, they have a constitutional obligation to refuse. The court decision issued earlier this year in the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of Providence resident Ada Morales stands for the fundamental proposition that the Fourth Amendment bars government officials from relying on these non-judicial detainers to hold people against their will. 

“The ACLU urges the state and municipalities to stand strong against these threats, and to reject the Attorney General’s efforts to cow them into adopting mean-spirited, counter-productive and unconstitutional policies.”