STATE HOUSE, Providence, RI – In response to a public statement by Governor Daniel McKee alluding to the possible influx of illegal migrants who entered the country bypassing our immigration laws, House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale and Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz requested a meeting with the Governor in early January of 2024. The purpose of the meeting was to seek clarification on the Governor’s plan should a large group of migrants arrive at our doorstep and a definitive answer or repudiation as to Rhode Island’s status as a “sanctuary state.”

The Governor was too busy to entertain a meeting but did offer a meeting with two of his staff members which was accepted by the Minority Leaders. The Governor’s staff relayed a 48-hour plan for the arrival of unlawful migrants. However, a post-48-hour plan is currently nonexistent. Despite continued requests to the Governor’s office to make clear the state’s policy regarding an influx of undocumented migrants, we received no further clarification and a refusal to declare that Rhode Island either is or is not a sanctuary state.

Leader Chippendale stated, “As long as 113 Rhode Island Military veterans and 1,800 Rhode Island residents are sleeping on the streets, we should not be accepting any migrants shipped into our state. Our citizens must be assured that our already overburdened healthcare, housing and social services will not be further impacted by the arrival of migrants into our state while our citizens are suffering. Rhode Islanders deserve immediate clarification of the state’s policies and should demand such from Governor McKee.

Now, we have learned that a Guatemalan national, with an active ICE detainer was released on surety following charges of first-degree child molestation, raising serious questions regarding public safety. He was captured by ERO Boston after 10 months,” commented Leader de la Cruz. This massive failure significantly increases the need for clarification of the state’s policy regarding illegal migrants with active detainer orders. Was this incident an egregious error or a matter of policy? According to the RI Department of Corrections, they still follow the 2014 directive of then-Governor Lincoln Chafee of not honoring federal immigration detainers.

We call on Governor McKee to act in the best interest of Rhode Islanders by immediately clarifying the state’s policies and sanctuary status regarding illegal migrants and to end the very real threat to public safety from a decade old mandate stifling collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

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