PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — There are thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Rhode Island and millions across the country. While undocumented immigrants entered the country illegally, local police officers in RI cannot arrest a person based solely on immigration status, stated Steven O’Donnell, former Rhode Island State Police Superintendent and Law Enforcement Analyst for Eyewitness News on Thursday.
Immigration, a topic at the top of the president-elect’s list, gained local attention after Providence’s Mayor Elorza came forward on Sunday and said that the city will continue its longstanding policy of not referring undocumented immigrants who aren’t facing criminal charges to federal immigration officials. Since then, Elorza was criticized by North Kingstown state Rep. Doreen Costa, who, in an essay, wrote that if Elorza “refuses to honor the federal or state law, I believe he should be arrested.”
O’Donnell said, “the bottom line is it’s still against the law but it’s a civil violation and law enforcement in the current state that we’re in, doesn’t enforce civil infractions for immigration.”
The Law Enforcement Analyst explained that if an undocumented immigrant committed a crime, his/her fingerprints would go in the system. Unless the crime is a threat to national security, public safety, or border security, though, the information goes no further.
Local jurisdiction can only enforce the law that exists in their city or town.
“You have to sit back and wait and let the President decide what his policies are going to be and then if the policies are adverse to whatever the leaders of your state and your city, you abide by those,” he said.