Jamestown Council Rejects Sanctuary Ordinance
By Shari Rendall | December 21, 2018
In Jamestown, Rhode Island, the Town Council opposed efforts by a group of residents to become a sanctuary jurisdiction. On December 13, the Jamestown Council overwhelmingly voted 4-0 to oppose the Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance. This measure would have prevented law enforcement officers from freely communicating with federal immigration officials – shielding criminal aliens and needlessly endangering innocent lives.
At the Town Council meeting, Chief of Police Ed Mello objected to the ordinance saying that it would “handcuff his department from cooperating with federal authorities in all situations” adding that his officers do not inquire about the immigration status of any individual unless “they are arrested, taken into custody and fingerprinted.” Resident Richard Hitt countered the Chief’s argument saying the ordinance was needed to “give this community of immigrants a reason to trust them.” However, a FAIR issue brief found that Hitt’s assertion is inaccurate since most illegal aliens don’t cooperate with police even in sanctuary cities, largely because of a lack of trust of in law enforcement officials that stems from previous experiences in their home where law enforcement authorities are either corrupt or serve as a tool of state oppression.
Specifically, the Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance forbids the Jamestown Police from stopping, questioning, investigating, or arresting someone based on immigration or citizenship status. It also prohibits the Jamestown Police from holding an individual at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a judicial warrant unless there are exigent circumstances preventing ICE from getting a warrant, or if there is probable cause to believe the individual is or has engaged in terrorist activity. Additionally, the Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance limits the information that Jamestown law enforcement offices may share with ICE as well as limits ICE’s access to individuals in their custody.
In 1996, Congress adopted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act to prohibit state and local governments from restricting their employees from sharing and receiving information regarding illegal aliens with the federal government. The Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance directly conflicts with the purposes and objectives of this law by prohibiting Jamestown law enforcement from disclosing the immigration status of individuals they encounter, thereby prohibiting cooperation with federal officials in the enforcement of immigration law.
Outrageously, this ordinance was designed to force the hands of Jamestown law enforcement officials. The Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance allows “an aggrieved individual or an organization that is chartered for the purpose of combatting discrimination, promoting the rights of immigrants, or safeguarding civil rights” to sue for any violation. This ordinance, as written, gives excessive influence to advocacy organizations and groups with anti-enforcement policy agendas like the ACLU, which unsurprisingly endorsed it.
Despite Jamestown Council’s tremendous opposition, the ordinance could still pass if the voters choose. The town charter requires that if 10 percent of the total number of registered voters at the last regularly scheduled election sign a petition to have an ordinance considered and if the Council does not approve it, then it be placed on the ballot for a vote within a year. The special election to consider the Municipal Immigrant Protection Ordinance will be held on April 2, 2019.
Even the April 2 election may not be set in stone. Questions surrounding the number of signatures on the petition have surfaced. Hugh Murphy, a Republican member of the board of canvassers, told the councilors during the December 13 meeting that there were 32 printed names on the petition – not signatures. If those 32 names were disqualified, then there were not enough petitioners to meet the requirement of 10 percent of the electorate. However, the Democrat majority board of canvassers certified the signatures and that decision was not appealed, which according to the Town Solicitor, made the questions surrounding the signatures moot. Stay tuned.