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Governor Raimondo responds to alleged 4th Amendment violations



This is pinpointed, this is targeted. This is a state of emergency. This is limited in time. This will be enforced in a respectful way, and it’s a public health necessity.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo responded today to the ACLU of Rhode Island and other critics who say that her order to stop and detain people entering the state by automobile so that the driver and passengers may be issued legal orders to self-quarantine four 14 days and obtain personal contact information is a violation of the 4th Amendment and unconstitutional. The Governor announced the policy on Thursday as part of an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In defending her policy, Raimondo added that starting tomorrow, the National Guard will be going door-to-door in seaside communities to issue self-quarantine orders to people who may have recently arrived from New York. The specter of armed military personnel going door-to-door in America is certain to alarm people who care about civil rights.

“I am not surprised that the ACLU would have that view,” said Governor Raimondo. “I respect that opinion and under a normal set of set of circumstances, I would not be choosing to make this decision. Having said that, this is a state of emergency. It is a public health crisis and it’s imperative that we collect information so we can do contact tracing and that we ask folks to be in quarantine for 14 days. It’s consistent with all the guidance we’re getting from the federal government and from experts. And it’s what I know to be necessary in order to keep her an Islander safe.”

The Governor explained her decision by speaking about the importance of quarantine and contact tracing in combating the pandemic:

“The way we fight this virus is going to change a little,” said Governor Raimondo. “Right now, the way we have been fighting it has been, has been a very broad response. Shutting down all restaurants, all bars, much of the economy, all close and contact businesses. Obviously that’s not sustainable. We cannnot survive if we have no economy indefinitely or even for a lengthy period of time.

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“So to give you a view into how I’m thinking about this, and this is in constant consultation with public health experts, experts from all around the world, actually, the way we need to move our response is to be more pinpointed. And that means more testing, a greater focus on populations such as older folks that have a higher risk, and a real focus on people who we know have the virus or who’ve been exposed to the virus. Over time we’re going to get better at pinpointing and we’re going to get actually more serious about how we enforce these rules around pinpointed populations so that we can ease some of the restrictions on everybody else.

“I can’t do that right now because we’re not ready yet. As I said, we need to be doing a thousand tests a day or hospitals have to be more ready. We have to have better infrastructure. That’s where we’re trying to get.

“Right now we have a pinpointed risk that we need to address and we need to be very serious, and that risk is called New York City,” continued Governor Raimondo. “Tens of thousands of people. The majority of cases of coronavirus in America are in the New York Metro area. It’s less than a couple hundred miles from where I’m standing right now. In light of that risk and in light of the fact that folks from New York present different kinds of danger to the people of Rhode Island, we’re going to take a more aggressive pinpointed approach for the foreseeable future as it relates to people coming to Rhode Island from New York. This is in line with guidance from the white house and the CDC and experts.

“Yesterday I announced and today I reiterated [that] anyone coming to Rhode Island in any way from New York must be quarantined by order,” continued Governor Raimondo. “Starting today at noon state police are monitoring our highways… They’re on the side roads in Westerly and they will be pulling you over if they see that you have New York plates and asking you for your contact information and ordering you into quarantine if you plan to stay in Rhode Island. That could be in a hotel, that could be a rental property. That could be around summer homes. Starting tomorrow, the National Guard will be working with local law enforcement going door-to-door in our coastal communities, asking people if they’ve come from New York and asking them for their contact information. Obviously we will be doing our best to target those homes where we know people are likely to have come from New York. We have a pretty good sense of which are rental properties [and] which are second home properties, and we will be knocking on the door and asking folks for their contact information, providing them with the order that they must remain in quarantine for 14 days if they’ve come from New York state.

In addition, all hotels, renters and rental companies will be notified of this quarantine order in writing. We’re asking [them] to provide that guidance to all of [their] renters. I know this is unusual. I know it’s extreme and I know some people don’t agree with it and it’s absolutely not a decision that I make lightly. I’ve consulted lawyers, I’ve consulted local law enforcement, and I’ve been hearing from a lot of people in the community. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it were necessary. So we’re not shutting down our borders per se. But what we’re saying is, if you want to seek refuge in Rhode Island, you must be quarantined for 14 days. And we, the people of Rhode Island plan to enforce that.

Asked if she’s “concerned with the optics of military officials going door to door and the impact that might have on the public psychology” the Governor replied that she is, but:

“I’ll tell you the optics that I like even less. The optics of Rhode Island Hospital bursting at the seams, not being able to take care of all the patients that we have. The optics that I’m seeing in Seattle, Washington, New York City, New Orleans, Milan, and around the globe…

“The CDC and the Trump administration have given guidance as it relates to the entire State of New York,” said Governor Raimondo. “So I followed that guidance. Secondly, there are practical realities as it relates to how to enforce this. You know, I have lawyers on my side advising me as well [that this] is an emergency and what is constitutional in one scenario, is different in another.

“This is pinpointed, this is targeted,” said Governor Raimondo. “This is a state of emergency. This is limited in time. This will be enforced in a respectful way, and it’s a public health necessity.”

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.