Why Not Rhode Island?

August 1, 2010

While the Obama administration’s Justice Department sought an injunction against the state of Arizona for its enactment of SB 1070, and the defenders of the open-borders status quo went to the barricades against what they perceived as an impending pandemic of racial profiling, a quiet revolution in immigration enforcement was occurring across the country in the normally placid Ocean State.

Over in Rhode Island, ever since Governor Donald Carcieri issued an executive order in 2008, police officers in that state have had the authority to question suspects who are pulled over for unrelated crimes about their current immigration status, as have the State Police, which has been asked to assist federal authorities, such as ICE,  in checking the immigration status of potential criminal suspects. In other words, a power very similar to what was at issue in the public debate concerning the most “controversial” aspect of SB 1070, but which Rhode Island law enforcement has no issue with, as this report illustrates.

What’s more, this authority has been given the imprimatur of juridical approval in the past year! You can read the decision in full here , which is something Judge Bolton would have been well-advised to do. For historical perspective on whether cops even need reasonable suspicion or probable cause in order to question a suspect about his or her immigration status-here’s a hint, they don’t-you can consult this Supreme Court decision.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this situation is that the man enforcing the new policy is the son of immigrants from Cape Verde! Of course, none of this information was proffered by the litigants seeking to overturn SB 1070, who instead relied upon a series of speculative propositions involving racial profiling that was not likely to occur-and has not occurred in Rhode Island since Governor Carcieri’s executive order has been implemented-and is specifically prohibited by the law itself. Plus, assertions about federal preemption doctrine that completely manipulated the intent and wording of Arizona’s new law.

Now, the media likes to characterize the executive order by Governor Carcieri and SB 1070 as completely different in their approaches to immigration law enforcement, and in some important respects the two statutes are very different. However, not so different as to justify the misguided, illogical legal reasoning that Judge Bolton used in her decision to enjoin the pivotal provsion of SB 1070 – an issue I shall examine more closely tomorrow.

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