Immigration Debate at Statehouse: A Preview

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


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The debate over illegal immigration is heating up all over again as the House Labor Committee plans to hold a hearing today on a bill to step up enforcement of immigration laws.

Here is what you need to know.

Details on the hearing: Room 35 of the Statehouse at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Key sponsors of the bill: Conservative Democrats Peter Palumbo, of Cranston, and Jon Brien, of Woonsocket, and Joe Trillo, R-Warwick.

What the bill does: The bill aims to restore immigration control measures instituted by Gov. Don Carcieri and rescinded by Gov. Lincoln Chafee after taking office last month. If passed into law, it would achieve three things:
■ It would require that any state agency hiring new employees confirm they are legal immigrants by checking a national database, known as E-Verify.
■ It requires that any business that has a contract with the state do the same thing.
■ It says that State Police have to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in enforcing federal immigration laws.

CLICK HERE  to read the bill.

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When would it take effect? Immediately upon passage.

What are the chances of it passing? Given that the new Governor just rescinded the executive order on E-Verify, attempting to reinstate it might seem a bit of an uphill battle, but Rep. Joe Trillo says it’s unclear just how many in the House support or oppose the bill. “The Governor can do what he wants, but he’s one man,” Trillo said. He estimates that from 20 to 35 state reps in the 75-member chamber are publicly in support of the measure—more might be quietly sympathetic yet reluctant to advertise their position he added.

Arguments for the bill….. “I think the biggest argument I have is ‘Why not?’” Trillo tells GoLocalProv. “Why would we not want to make sure that people employed by the State of Rhode Island are legal?” He also dismisses as invalid the argument that it is the job of the federal government to deal with illegal immigration. The fact of the matter is that the feds aren’t—so the states have to step up to the plate, Trillo says.

… and against it Trillo asks “Why not?” to which a skeptical Edith Ajello, D-Providence, responds, “Why?” Ajello says the state already has to check Social Security cards and a driver’s license or photo ID. “Isn’t that better than this distant system that’s not perfect and could be fooled?” said Ajello, a prominent progressive who is chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Impact on State Police Ajello also worries that having State Police work closely with ICE could distract them from their “first job” which she says is “dealing with crime.” She says the program could backfire, causing some people to not report crimes because of their immigration status. “If they’re afraid to attract attention to themselves you have a situation where the police can’t be as effective as they can be in fighting crime because people are afraid to talk to them,” Ajello said. But Trillo says such fears are overblown. After all, he says, the State Police have been working with ICE since March 2008, when Carcieri issued his executive order. “This has all been tried already in Rhode Island,” Trillo said. “We know it works.”


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