Nearly three years ago, Gov. Donald Carcieri tried to address the issue of illegal immigrants in Rhode Island by signing an executive order that would make it easier to screen employees for immigration status and identify people who are in the country illegally when they run afoul of the law.
Throughout his campaign for governor, Lincoln Chafee stated his opposition to the order several times, promising that he'd rescind it as one of his first acts as governor.
The order had six provisions.
The state Department of Administration was required to use the federal government's E-Verify program to electronically confirm the status of new executive branch employees. In addition, all companies doing business with the state were required to use E-Verify to weed out illegal workers.
The order also authorized state agencies to notify any person whose identity had been stolen and was being used by someone to improperly receive state benefits such as child care, health care or a driver"s license.
In addition, it required the Rhode Island State Police to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the principal investigative agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to receive training to assist ICE personnel in arresting illegal immigrants. That partnership gave the state police access to federal databases, and allowed troopers to process suspected immigration violators and take them to the federal Wyatt Detention Center.
A similar memorandum of agreement with ICE would have allowed personnel of the Adult Correctional Institutions to access those federal databases to investigate the immigration status of prisoners and prepare necessary documentation for those found to be in the country illegally. The order also proposed to have the Corrections Department and the Parole Board work cooperatively with ICE to arrange for the parole and deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.
The order was praised by supporters of stricter enforcement of immigration laws. But it was condemned by advocates of immigrants, including many of the state's top clergy members, who said it would lead to racial profiling and had created a climate of fear in immigrant communities.
Chafee stated his opposition to the order several times during the campaign, promising to rescind it if he was elected.
Referring to the order in his inaugural address, Chafee said: "However well intentioned it may have been, it has caused needless anxiety within our Latino community without demonstrating any progress on illegal immigration, an issue I strongly believe must be solved at the federal level."
So the morning after being sworn in, during a ceremony at the International Institute of Rhode Island, in Providence, Chafee signed an executive order nullifying Carcieri's mandate. While Chafee didn't rescind the order on his first day in office, as some expected, it was one of his first official actions.
We rate this as a Promise Kept.