2017-02-23 / Letters to the Editor

Don’t mix local police and immigration issue

To the editor:

Jamestown is a sanctuary town, at least in its de facto policy regarding immigrants.

However, because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already has begun to detain Rhode Island immigrants, the state needs to go beyond informal ad hoc policies to one that sets standards for how local police deal with immigrants.

There currently is a state bill that recognizes and affirms the value of immigrants and would set standards for how local law enforcement responds to ICE detainers. We need to support this bill, which, in essence, would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from detaining a person solely on the basis of a civil immigration detainer or an administrative warrant.

The bill’s author, Central Falls Rep. Shelby Maldonado, the daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, said: “Rhode Island has a 350-year tradition of respecting human rights. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, the state must preserve an environment that encourages cultural, economic and community participation for the immigrant community, rather than one that fosters an atmosphere of fear and distrust of law enforcement officers. . . . Our police officers are not federal immigration experts and should not be asked to perform those duties for a law that is extremely complicated.”

Moreover, taking local police away from their primary duties would drain local resources and use personnel not trained to do the work of federal law enforcement.

Protecting and valuing immigrants is more than just a civil and human rights issue or a matter of inappropriate use of local law enforcement. It is a matter of public safety for all of us.

Helen O’Grady
Schooner Avenue

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