One of Linc Chafee’s key campaign promises in running for Governor was to rescind an executive order in Rhode Island which required vendors doing business with state agencies to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the immigration status of employees, and directing the state police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities through a so-called 287(g) agreement.

The prior executive order did not establish any state immigration law, or deviate from federal law.  In fact, all the prior executive order established was what many opponents of the Arizona immigration law say they wanted – the supremacy of federal immigration law and the cooperation of states with federal authorities through existing programs.

Soon after his swearing in, Chafee, who was elected Governor on the Independent line, rescinded the prior executive order, and made clear that there would be no cooperation with federal immigration authorities.  As reported by The Providence Journal:

Less than 24 hours after he was sworn in, Governor Chafee honored a campaign promise by repealing a controversial executive order that his predecessor, former Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, had issued to crack down on illegal immigration.

To cheers, Governor Chafee officially rescinded the edict that he termed “an agent of divisiveness, incivility and distrust among the state’s citizens.” …

The rescission lifts a requirement that state agencies and state vendors screen employees through the federal E-Verify system. Critics say E-Verify is prone to inaccuracy.

Chafee also clarified that he is also directing state police Col. Brendan P. Doherty to end the so-called 287(g) agreement between state police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Carcieri’s order directed state police to pursue the agreement. It led to four troopers being deputized with immigration-enforcement powers.  

Doherty said later, “I thought the [287(g)] process was working well. Reasonable minds may differ, but he is the governor.”

He added, “We will continue to communicate and cooperate with ICE on matters of mutual concern and make sure the people of Rhode Island are safe in a variety of ways.”

Chafee said “the real answer” to curbing illegal immigration is through federal immigration reform. He pledged to push for that through the National Governors Association “to get our immigrant community — some of whom are living in the shadows — out of the shadows.”.

The new Rhode Island Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin, has signaled an intention to participate in the federal Secure Communities program whereby the immigration status of people arrested on other charges is checked.  Demonstrators who attended the Chafee event announcing rescision of the prior exective order went directly to Kilmartin’s office, where they staged a sit-in in the lobby.  Even if enacted, the Secure Communities program would be a very narrow area of cooperation, which Chafee would have no power to stop because the Attorney General is a constitutional officer who is not under the Governor’s control.

The effect of Chafee’s actions is to put Rhode Island on the path to becoming a sanctuary state, much as there are sanctuary cities around the country which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

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