Thirteen non-profit organizations today sent letters to Governor Gina Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell asking them to take specific actions within their power to help protect Rhode Island’s immigrants. The diverse signatories included the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Muslim Civic and Community Engagement, RI State Council of Churches, Refugee Dream Center, Fuerza Laboral, and Dorcas International Institute of RI.
In the letters, the organizations – all of which regularly interact with RI’s immigrant community – noted the federal administration’s increasing attack on immigrants and the distress this attack has generated. The letter to Governor Raimondo states that “a palpable fear now exists in the immigrant community in light of the federal government’s…aggressive enforcement of immigration laws,” and that elsewhere in the country, “[d]omestic violence victims have been arrested in courthouses and a young person with protective status under…[the] DACA program was recently deported.”
The letters sent today make specific asks of each of the three officials. In their letter to Governor Raimondo, the organizations ask her to issue an executive order that would limit state agency collaboration with federal immigration officials in a variety of lawful ways.
The letter to Chief Justice Suttell requests that he send a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging ICE agents to refrain from conducting enforcement actions at or near state courthouses. Citing recent reports of immigration arrests at courthouses elsewhere, the letter notes the chilling effect it is having on access to the courts everywhere: “The state judiciary cannot deliver the promise of equal access to justice and due process under law if a segment of the community is afraid to access the courts.” Chief Justices in at least four other states have sent similar letters to the DHS.
In their letter to Attorney General Kilmartin, the organizations ask that he join at least two other state Attorneys-General in calling for a halt to ICE courthouse arrests, and that he repudiate two problematic provisions of President Trump’s Executive Orders – one that essentially seeks to deputize local police to act as immigration officers, and another that threatens to withhold federal funds from municipalities that work to protect immigrants.
At a news conference announcing these requests to the three state officials, Javier Juarez, a DACA student (DACA is the federal program designed to protect from deportation eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children) who is graduating from Rhode Island College this week, explained how he was able to finish college only because of the state’s in-state tuition policy for people like himself, emphasizing the importance of state officials taking strong stands to support immigrants. He also spoke of the fear and anxiety he dealt with being in this country from Peru since the age of 10 without having documented status.
The following groups signed the letters: ACLU of Rhode Island; RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence; American Friends Service Committee, Southeastern New England; Dorcas International Institute of RI; Economic Progress Institute; Fuerza Laboral; Muslim Civic and Community Engagement; NAACP - Providence Branch; Providence Student Union; Providence Youth Student Movement; Refugee Dream Center; RI State Council of Churches; and Sojourner House.