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Providence Mayor Elorza orders Providence Police to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities



“As the Trump Administration considers raids throughout the country and potentially even in our community, I want to make it clear that our local law enforcement will not be aiding or assisting in any way in their hate-filled efforts to threaten our communities,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

[Note: Doug Tarnopol was the cameraperson for all the videos below, and a great help for this piece.]

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza joined public safety officials and community activists at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island to talk about the City’s response to plans to hold mass arrests of undocumented immigrants across the country beginning Sunday. The raids will be targeting immigrants with warrants for removal, but according to the New York Times, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel will include “collateral” deportations, defined as “immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids.”

Elorza was joined by many community partners and immigration activists, including immigration attorney Joseph Molina Flynn, community leader and DACA recipient Rodrigo Pimentel, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island Executive Director Kathleen Cloutier, the Reverend Dr Donnie Anderson, and more than twenty others, to address reports of possible nationwide immigration enforcement actions beginning this weekend.

Because reports have indicated that ICE plans to execute targeted enforcement beginning this Sunday in undisclosed communities across the country, faith and community leaders in several states have come together to highlight basic rights information and resources and supports available for immigrant and refugee communities.

Below is the video and selected highlights from the press conference:

“I am overwhelmed by all of the partners in the community that are saying that we’re going to choose love, not hate,” said Elorza. “We’re going to come together rather than be divided and it’s just really heartening to see so many people willing to stand up to support our immigrant community and I’m sure there are many other people out there that would be here if they could be here and I know they stand in solidarity with us.

“For weeks now the Trump Administration has been issuing reports and spreading fear in our communities across the country. The threat of nationwide deportation raids has cast a dark cloud of uncertainty and it has caused panic among working families from coast to coast. Many of us cannot fathom the very real, terrifying nightmare that some of our neighbors are living through right now simply because of [the President’s] tweets and words.

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“Fear is driving them into the shadows. That affects all of us. When people feel targeted they disconnect themselves and that affects our sense of community, our economy, our culture, and every part of our way of life. We have approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States at this moment. We didn’t get here overnight we’re not going to solve this issue overnight, regardless of what the president says.

“As the Trump Administration considers raids throughout the country and potentially even in our community, I want to make it clear that our local law enforcement will not be aiding or assisting in any way in their hate-filled efforts to threaten our communities.

“I am disheartened that the administration in Washington and ICE, have chosen division over inclusivity and hope, and fear over hope. This comes after months of families being separated at the border children living in cages, and inhumane living conditions. This level of cruelty is simply unacceptable and un-American one family being affected by this is one too many and we’re not going to stand for it in our community.

“While we do not know exactly what may come, as a community we want everyone to know that we stand by all of our residents regardless of their immigration status,” continued Elorza.

“It’s unfortunate that I have to repeat this but I want to make this abundantly clear: Many people say that this is about harboring criminals. This could not be further from the truth. Our local law enforcement spends all of their time making sure that if there are dangerous criminals in the community that that is addressed. What we are talking about here something entirely different.

“These are families simply looking for their own version of the American dream. They come here full of hope doing to do whatever it takes and make any sacrifice so that their children can have a better life. It is our responsibility as Americans to stand up for them and let them know that this is their home, regardless of their immigration status. Each resident is a contributor to our vibrant thriving community. Each resident is an invaluable part of who we are and there are so many people who simply want to help and many of them are standing with us here today.

“Over the next several days we’ll be connecting with our partners to continue to share our information so that everyone knows their rights,” concluded Elorza. “We want everyone to know how you can best be an ally and contribute to the cause. And god forbid something does happen in our community. We want those who are affected to know the information that will be vital, on what steps they need to take. We will be sure to share the latest developments as they come in and we want everyone to know that Providence Police will not be part of these inhumane immigration actions in our community. Whatever may come, I know that here, we will stand as one Providence.”

“This is actually the space that I was in many many years ago,” said Providence City Council Member Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), referring to the Dorcas offices, “because I too was an undocumented immigrant. It’s here, the people here at the International House, before the merge with Dorcas, where they helped my family help me gain legal status.

“I was once an undocumented immigrant and I am no criminal. I have an education. I have a graduate degree, in fact I have an Ivy League graduate degree, because this is what an immigrant looks like…

“I am so proud to live in a city that that realizes and understands and embraces that,” concluded LaFortune.

“I want to thank Mayor Elorza for taking the opportunity today to bring the community together and to assure the community and Providence that during this very uncertain time he is providing some certainty by announcing that the Commissioner and the law enforcement agents will not be cooperating with these enforcement actions,” said immigration attorney Joseph Molina Flynn. “So I thank you for taking that very bold step today. I know that it takes a lot to stand up here and do that as the Executive of the City of Providence.

“That said, what can our community expect over the weekend and in the coming weeks? There isn’t much that we can tell you with certainty about what’s going to occur over the next couple of weeks. The only thing that we can tell you is that based on some Tweets and some information that has been leaked, it seems as though the targets of these enforcement actions will be people without standing removal orders but that doesn’t mean that those are the only people who will be affected.

“You have to remember that all of these actions have collateral consequences and they affect everybody in the family and, in some occasions in the community. Fortunately, we’ve had the Mayor saying what he said about Providence but if you think about places like Arizona and Alabama and other places that are not as welcoming to individuals,” continued Flynn.

“Do you really think that ICE and enforcement agents are going to sit there and parse out who the people with the outstanding removal orders are from the people who do not have outstanding removal orders? I don’t believe they will and I’ve seen it many times in my practice, where they detain now and ask questions later. We’re seeing that with the situation at the border, so it does take a community, like this, coming together and helping the people who are suffering from this uncertainty at a time like this.

“To our undocumented population out there, I want to make sure that you know what your rights are.

“First of all, if you have somebody knocking at your door identifying themselves as an ICE officer, you absolutely have the right to not open your door. You have the right to ask that the ICE officer present you with a warrant that is signed by a judicial officer – and that is a very critical distinction. The warrants that they typically use, which are just signed by another ICE agent or officer sitting behind their desk at the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Once you see a warrant signed by a judicial officer then you probably should at that point turn yourself in to the immigration authorities, to prevent some of these collateral consequences that we were talking about earlier, like your family and friends being detained, who may be in the home with you.

“However, if the warrant is not signed by a judicial officer, you do not have to open the door at all. Once you have encountered an ICE officer, if you encounter them coming home from work or if you actually make the mistake to open the door before you realize who’s behind it, you have the absolute right to remain silent. This is very critical. You should not lie to an immigration official. However, you do not have to say anything at all…

“You do not have to say who you are and you should not say anything until you have had the advice and counsel of an immigration attorney,” concluded Flynn. “If you’re unsure who to turn to, because there are a lot of attorneys and there are a lot of immigration attorneys and people don’t know who they can trust in these uncertain times, you can reach out to your community partners like Dorcas International, Progreso Latino, Sojourner House and the Catholic Diocese here in Providence. Those are the four BIA accredited institutions here in Rhode Island that can help you either with their own advice and counsel or by finding reputable immigration attorneys in the community that can help you.”

“The Immigrant Coalition is a group of 35 community organizations and agencies in Rhode Island that was formed to help support immigrants in the community and respond to growing needs,” said Tonya Valencia, an attorney handling primarily removal defense cases for low-income immigrants.

“The coalition’s member organizations have already taken important steps to support immigrants who are facing deportation proceedings.

“The Center for Justice has developed the Family Preparedness Plan,” continued Valencia. “It helps explain what may happen to families with children whose adult guardians are facing deportation. Family Preparedness Plans are available in Spanish and English, and can be found at the Center for Justice’s website.

“The AMOR support line is a 24 hour phone line that connects community members with a broad network of services. Services are available in Spanish and English and the phone number is 401-675-1414.

“Lastly, I’d urge anyone who has a case specific question to call Dorcas International,” concluded Valencia. “Ask to speak with me directly.”

Rodrigo Pimentel, DACA recipient and immigration activist:

The Reverend Dr Donnie Anderson:

Elorza repeated his address in Spanish:

Elorza takes questions from reporters and others in the audience:

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

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