Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The ACLU vs. The Man

Who's got it right when it comes to the issue of enforcing immigration laws, the Rhode Island State Police, or the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union?

Back on July 11, 2006, trooper Thomas Chabot pulled over a van containing 15 (!) illegal immigrants from Guatemala on route 95 in Richmond for failing to use a turn signal during a lane change. After running the driver's license and registration, the trooper asked the passengers to produce some identification. When some of the passengers were unable to do so, the trooper then demanded the passengers produce "documents" proving their eligibility to live and work in the United States.

When the passengers were, obviously, unable to comply, trooper Chabot called for backup and informed the driver that the the State Police would be escorting him, and all of his passengers, to the federal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Providence. Duly escorted, the 15 Guatemalans were admitted for processing by la migra.

Enter the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who filed a lawsuit alleging the State Police engaged in illegal racial profiling and violated the fourth amendment rights of the Guatemalans by submitting them to "unreasonable search and seizure". Naturally, the ACLU is filing a lawsuit seeking compensatory damages against the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, State Police Colonel Steven Paré, trooper Chabot and a trooper named as "Jane Doe" (the trooper Chabot called for backup, whose identity the ACLU has been unable to identify).

Let's forget about the folly of suing someone you can't even identify for damages for a moment and move onto the larger issue: do state and local police have the authority to detain people for violating federal immigration laws and send them to the feds? The answer is yes, although most state and local law enforcement agencies do not because they are unfamiliar with the intricacies of federal statues. The Rhode Island ACLU, for their part, has not even attempted to dispute the authority of the State Police to forward people suspected of violating immigration laws to the feds, but instead contends that they do so via racial profiling. While granting that constitutional protections are granted to "all inhabitants" of the United States and not just citizens, the State Police contend that they are also entrusted with upholding the law, and provided they know which federal laws they are enforcing, they have the authority (nay, the obligation) to uphold them.

The State Police, who conducted their own internal investigation, dismissed the ACLU's complaints as being without merit, stating that trooper Chabot's actions were handled "professionally and appropriately", so now it remains to be settled in court. For their part, the illegal Guatemalan immigrants are looking at a potential payday from the state before being deported to Guatemala, but will likely remain in Providence until the case goes to court.

Lest I forget, Dictators of the World has been updated for your pleasure.


wrki said...

Okay, I want to just clarify...
PEOPLE cannot be illegal.

Their actions may be illegal, but people have the right to live.

That's just me and my soapbox, though.

I would have thought the troopers would have charged them with lack of seat belts...the ACLU probably wouldn't have gotten involved...

Roger Williams said...

That's an important distinction, no doubt. It also seems to create an existential crisis - the difference between "being here" illegally and "being illegal". The Man isn't denying anyone a right to live - but they are denying someone the right to live illegally in Rhode Island. That, I suppose, is their prerogative.

I can't imagine a real crackdown on illegal immigration in Providence - illegal immigrants comprise somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the city's population.

HoboHermit said...

Another important distinction:

No one is illegally in Rhode Island.

You can only be prohibited from the United States as a whole.

Which is why state troopers shouldn't have jurisdiction over what is essentially a federal regulatory function.

Guy, you should let me teach you some of the finer points of separation of bed.