PROVIDENCE — Making good on one of his principal campaign promises, Gov. Lincoln Chafee Wednesday signed an executive order revoking the controversial Illegal Immigration Control Order issued by former Gov. Donald Carcieri more than two years ago.
Carcieri’s order required all state departments and all contractors doing work for the state to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure all newly hired personnel were in the country legally and were eligible to work. It also required that State Police, corrections officials and the Parole Board to work with the federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist them in enforcing immigration law.
That order was rescinded in its entirety. Chafee said the state’s position on immigration is going back to what it was on March 26, 2008, the day before Carcieri’s order was signed. Memorandums of agreement between ICE and the State Police and corrections department will be revoked, Chafee said.
Chafee said his administration would work with the immigrant community and the State Police, “to make sure we are enforcing the law to the best of our ability, but not doing immigration and customs work.”
In contrast to Carcieri’s statement when he signed his order, saying “If you are here illegally, you don’t belong here,” Chafee said that in signing his order the state was living up to the standard set by founder Roger Williams, to be a place marked by “welcoming, tolerance, personal rights and the broadest freedoms in the world at that time.”
Executive Order 11-02 states in part that “the Illegal Immigration Control Order does not effectively address the state’s fiscal or unemployment problems” and that the order “has been an agent of divisiveness, incivility and distrust among the state’s citizens.”
Chafee signed the order before a clapping, cheering, standing-room-only, predominantly Latino crowd at the International Institute in Providence.
He said “the Latino community and all our immigrant communities are vibrant, hard-working, civically-engaged groups that have made significant contributions to our state.”
Asked how he would prevent illegal aliens from taking jobs with state government, as many employees of a janitorial service working for the courts and the attorney general’s office were found to be several years ago, Chafee said, “ICE has a presence here. That’s their job.”
Chafee frequently referred to Carcieri’s order as the “E-Verify executive order.” On Wednesday he said, “the use of E-Verify has been a divisive issue causing unnecessary fear and anxiety in our immigrant community. We should be welcoming these great Rhode Islanders and I believe E-Verify has not been effective in addressing these very, very complex immigration issues.
Chafee said he believes immigration issues should be dealt with at the national level and he promised to be active in addressing them through the National Governors Association “urging the federal government to act so we don’t have these Arizona-type laws popping up state by state.
Arizona was criticized by immigrants and civil-rights groups for a law signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer that dealt harshly with illegal immigrants. That law is currently being challenged in federal courts by the Obama administration.
Chafee said he would like to revive legislation introduced when he was in the U.S. Senate called the McCain-Kennedy bill, which offered a path to citizenship to immigrants who are in the country illegally. The bill was not passed. Sen. Edward Kennedy has since died and Sen. John McCain, who was the 2008 Republican candidate for president has repudiated the measure.
The governor said he is working with State Police Col. Brendan Doherty “about how we are going to continue to enforce the law.” Asked about Doherty’s position that State troopers should ask about the immigration status of individuals if they suspect they are here illegally, Chafee responded that there will be continuing conversations about what to do when someone is caught breaking the law. He added, however that “Any colonel works for the governor and reflects their positions,” but he was quick to add after a raucous cheer rose from the spectators that he would also listen to Doherty.
In response to questions from reporters, Chafee said, “My view is that Rhode Island can grow economically by being a tolerant place to do business. We toured Broad Street (in Providence), a lot of Latino businesses are springing up on Broad Street, a formerly depressed area. We want that revival to continue, whether it is in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, the immigrant-rich areas, I want to see them prosper.”