Mayor Elorza now calls Providence a sanctuary city, but isn’t planning policy changes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Mayor Jorge Elorza said Tuesday he is not planning to issue an executive order or ask the City Council to consider any new resolutions or ordinances related to immigration policy even though he now describes Providence as a sanctuary city.

Elorza, a Guatemalan-American Democrat, previously said he doesn’t consider Providence a sanctuary city, but he changed his tune after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week threatening to withhold federal dollars from communities that don’t fully cooperate with the requests of federal immigration officers.

Elorza has said he believes Providence does “cooperate and comply with all federal law,” which includes entering the fingerprints of anyone who is arrested into a database that is monitored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that typically handles deportation cases. But the city refuses to hold undocumented immigrants for an extended period of time while ICE secures a warrant and police officers do not ask residents about their immigration status.

“An executive order would have no effect beyond what is already our policy; namely, our officers are not to inquire about a person’s immigration status,” Elorza said in a statement. “This is our policy and it will not change regardless of what President Trump decides to do.”

A spokesperson for Elorza confirmed no resolutions or ordinances related to sanctuary cities are in the works. The proposed Community Safety Act, a wide-ranging ordinance related to police conduct that city leaders have been considering for several years, does include a provision that would prohibit cops from asking about a person’s immigration status.

Trump’s executive order allows the secretary of homeland security to decide which communities are sanctuary jurisdictions. The Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., does not list Providence as a sanctuary jurisdiction, but does list the R.I. Department of Corrections.

In 2007, the City Council considered a package of resolutions or ordinances that would have provided ID cards to undocumented residents, prohibited city employees from profiling undocumented people, and blocked police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status without a court order, but no votes were taken.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan