- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island Department of Corrections will no longer require a warrant before it honors immigration detainers, pulling back from a policy Gov. Lincoln Chafee instituted a month ago.

Chafee on Thursday signed a new policy that applies to all executive agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, which oversees sheriffs and state police among other agencies. The new policy requires the agencies to honor detainers accompanied by judicial deportation or removal orders.

Civil libertarians and immigration advocates said on Friday that the new policy sets a lower bar than the one Chafee adopted in July, when he instructed the Department of Corrections to stop honoring immigration detainers without a warrant. That policy was put in place after federal courts in Rhode Island and elsewhere ruled detainers violated civil rights, and local governments that enforced them could be held liable in lawsuits.

The state Department of Corrections is being sued by an American citizen who was held on a detainer. The case is pending.

The Department of Corrections used to handle most of the immigration detainers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued in the state. The detainers ask local agencies to hold people for up to two additional days after they otherwise would have been released following an arrest.

But after the new policy went into effect in July at the corrections department, advocates complained that other agencies, such as sheriffs, had stepped in to honor the detainers without a warrant. They asked the governor to extend the policy to all executive departments.

Steven Brown, of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on Friday they were disappointed and puzzled.

“This new policy affects significantly more individuals - in terms of throwing them into this broken system - than the old policy does,” he said.

Jonathan Blazer, an ACLU attorney, said the new policy was out of step with many of the 180 policies that have been rolled out by law enforcement agencies across the country since April amid the constitutional concerns raised by the federal court rulings.

“The majority of them require a judicial order of probable cause or a warrant and do not categorically allow for the honoring of detainers based upon a removal order,” Blazer said.

Chafee said through a spokeswoman on Friday that the ACLU had mischaracterized the change.

“By mandating that an order of removal or deportation accompany a detainer, the state is requiring a level of due process to precede the honoring of ICE detainers,” Chafee said in a statement.

Faye Zuckerman, Chafee’s spokeswoman, said the Rhode Island policy was not modeled on policies by any other law enforcement agency.

Will Lambek, co-coordinator of the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, a community group that advocates for the rights of people in the country illegally, said he didn’t understand why Chafee didn’t simply extend his July policy to all departments.

“It puts the state of Rhode Island back into the business of enforcing immigration policy, which is not what our public safety officers should be doing,” he said.

Zuckerman said Chafee did not agree with that statement, but she did not elaborate.

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