Rhode Island House speaker kills immigration bill By Thom Patterson, CNN



  • Rhode Island’s Arizona “copycat” immigration bill will not be considered this year
  • Speaker blocks bill after protesters march on floor of Rhode Island legislature
  • Representative proposed bill which would have allowed police to check residency status
  • Critics call Arizona law racist, but Palumbo said it would save “a ton of money”

(CNN) — Days after a boisterous protest on Rhode Island’s House floor, a state official decided that a bill copying Arizona’s immigration law will not be heard by lawmakers this session.

House Speaker Gordon Fox has decided not to take up the bill, a spokesman said Tuesday, because the speaker believes immigration matters are best handled at the federal level.

The move effectively kills the bill, which — like a recently passed Arizona law — would have allowed police to check people for proof of legal U.S. residency.

The State House became the latest battleground in the nation’s racially charged immigration debate. On Thursday, about 100 demonstrators chanted slogans and called on the bill’s sponsor, Democratic State Rep. Peter Palumbo, to resign.

Critics say the Arizona law will lead to racial profiling, while supporters say it involves no racial profiling and is needed to crack down on increasing crime involving illegal immigrants. Police are allowed to check a person’s residency status only if the person has been stopped or arrested for another reason.

What does Arizona’s immigration law do?

Palumbo’s House colleague Rep. Douglas Gablinske, who was in the chamber during the ruckus, said protesters were chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho — Peter Palumbo’s got to go.”

As the House speaker banged a gavel calling for Capitol Police to clear the room, Gablinske said, the young protesters chanted and draped themselves in a banner that read “Do I look like an immigrant?”

“I guess I found that somewhat strange because none of them looked like immigrants,” said Gablinske. “I don’t remember any Latinos there; I don’t remember any African-Americans. What I remember was a group of mostly younger people — white, Caucasian who were milling about.”

The whole disturbance lasted 20 minutes, according to Gablinske, and protesters offered no resistance to the handful of police who quickly ushered them out of the chamber.

The floor demonstration and an upcoming State House rally by Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement and Rhode Island Tea Party “had nothing to do” with Fox’s decision not to take up the bill, said Fox spokesman Larry Berman.

“This is a bill that came in very late and we’re ready to wrap up our session and we want to focus on the budget and economic issues and adjourn within a few weeks,” said Berman.

Berman said Fox “feels that states shouldn’t be interfering with federal immigration laws anyway.” Berman said a similar bill could be considered again in the next session, which begins in January.

Feds may challenge Arizona immigration law

Palumbo could not be reached for comment after Fox’s announcement, but earlier on Monday he said he expected the bill to come to a committee vote this week.

“The speaker was nice enough to allow me to put [the bill] in … because I have a good relationship with the leadership right now,” said Palumbo.

Palumbo said he sponsored the bill because Rhode Island has its own “problems associated with illegal aliens. We have something like 40,000 plus in Rhode Island right now.”

At the heart of his state’s immigration problem, Palumbo said, is state funds spent on illegal residents.

“We spend a ton of money on housing, conservation, law enforcement, hospital care — all the different areas you would take care of an immigrant, we would spend on illegal aliens,” he said. “If you subtract the illegals from that equation, then we don’t have a budget deficit.”

One of the protesters, hospital worker Mayra Paulino, told The Providence Journal, “I think that this is a racist law. It’s just going to cause more racial profiling than we already have.”

Palumbo said racism has nothing to do with it. “There’s a big difference between someone who comes over here as an immigrant and someone who comes over here and just completely ignores the laws of the country,” said Palumbo, who acknowledged that it might surprise people that he’s a Democrat. “It isn’t a Republican versus Democratic issue.”

The bill shows “there’s a vocal but very small minority in the state’s political leadership that wants to express solidarity with their very conservative compatriots in other states — or in Palumbo’s case — he just may be searching for headlines,” said political science professor Anthony Affigne of Providence College.

The overwhelming majority of Rhode Island’s 123,000 Latinos are citizens and legal immigrants, said Affigne, and their community makes up a little more than 10 percent of the state’s population, concentrated in the capital Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Newport.

Copycat measures

Rhode Island is just the latest of several states where officials are encouraging the enactment of similar laws, said Michael Hethmon general council of the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Lawmakers from at least four states that Hethmon refused to name have come forward looking for advice on writing new legislation. So how many other states will be following Arizona?

Whatever the number, it’s “too many,” Hethmon said.

“We greatly support state laws as a policy option in the face of federal gridlock, but you can’t take the Arizona bill and copy it and just drop it into another state legislature.”

Will other states follow Arizona’s immigration law?

Hethmon expressed concern about the pace of some of these “copycat measures,” like in Rhode Island, because many of these laws likely will face judgment in lawsuits.

A danger exists, experts warn, that state lawmakers will play too fast and loose with immigration laws by exercising a kind of “do-it-yourself” and “one-size-fits-all” mentality.

“I worry about other states going forward with these bills and not considering these very complex federal issues,” said Hethmon. “The technical language is critical and it’s not something that most state legislatures are familiar with.”


Senate Democratic News

May 26, 2010

Reid, Reed Join VoteVotes.Org To Urge Republicans To Provide Our Troops With The Resources They Need

Washington, DC —Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined Senate Armed Services Committee member Jack Reed and Jon Soltz of VoteVets.Org for a press conference earlier today to urge passage of critical funding for our troops in Afghanistan.

This week, as U.S. troops begin major operations in Kandahar, the heart of Afghanistan’s Taliban country, Senate Democrats are working to pass emergency legislation that would fund the 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, a policy that was announced last December.  The President’s plan to increase troops in Afghanistan has received bipartisan support.  Now that our fighting men and women have been deployed, Democrats are urging Republicans to join them in providing our troops with the resources they need.

The Department of Defense has requested Congress swiftly pass this funding in order to avoid costly and counterproductive disruptions to military operations.

“We have over 600 National Guardsmen from Nevada alone deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is our job to make sure that they can do their job,” said Senate Majority Leader Reid.  “That’s why Democrats are leading the effort to make sure our troops have the equipment and resources they need to succeed. Unfortunately, some Republicans are now threatening to block this critical funding.  I hope Republicans will join Democrats to make sure our troops have the tools they need to keep America safe and complete their mission.”

“President Obama has drastically scaled down the size of the supplemental and encouraged the defense budgeting process to better incorporate wartime spending, but there is still a dire need for this supplemental,” said Senator Reed.  “Members who voted to send our troops into harm’s way and never raised a fuss about paying for the war under President Bush are now trying to score political points.  They aren’t looking to make hard choices, they are looking to make campaign commercials, and continue their agenda of “no” to fixing the mess the Bush-Cheney administration left behind.”

“For Republicans to oppose funding for our troops in the field is unconscionable,” said Jon Soltz of VoteVets.Org.  “It also makes no sense.  They’ve largely supported President Obama’s execution of the war in Afghanistan, we still have troops in Iraq, a war that they supported.  So, we’re left with no other conclusion than this is just about politics – playing politics with our troops.”

May 26, 2010

Reid Files Amicus Brief In Support Of Rights Of Military Families, Invites Colleagues To Join Effort In Letter

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to his Senate colleagues this week inviting them to join an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder’s family.  After Matthew was killed in Iraq in 2006, members of a Kansas church marred his funeral with ugly, hateful protests.

In his letter, Senator Reid notes that while the Snyder family won in a lower court, this decision was overturned at the appellate level.  Reid’s letter also describes the three central arguments that his amicus brief will make in support of the Snyder family: private funerals have long been accorded special protection by American law; state and federal statutes, including the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, demonstrate the strong governmental interest in protecting private family funerals from disruption; and the state’s interest in protecting an individual’s privacy at a peaceful private funeral outweighs the First Amendment interest in protecting the hateful speech and conduct at issue in this case.

Senator Reid believes strongly that America owes the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families the right to a solemn memorial when they sacrifice their lives to protect America.

Key Excerpts of the Letter:

“The case concerns an ugly protest at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 in the line of duty.  A jury found that Matthew’s parents were deprived of a peaceful and solemn opportunity to bury their son.”

“I intend to file a brief in the Supreme Court this Friday, May 28, in support of the Snyder family.  The brief will argue that the law should continue to protect, as it long has, the rights of all private persons—including the families of fallen soldiers—to mourn their loved ones at a peaceful and solemn funeral.”

Full Text of the Letter:

May 24, 2010

Dear Colleague,

I write to invite you to join me in filing an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court in support of the petitioner in the case of Snyder v. Phelps (No. 09-751).

The case concerns an ugly protest at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 in the line of duty.  A jury found that Matthew’s parents were deprived of a peaceful and solemn opportunity to bury their son.  Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, including the church’s pastor Fred W. Phelps and his daughters, learned of the time and place of Matthew’s funeral and planned a protest there, as they have done at other funerals of fallen soldiers around the country.  The demonstrators displayed signs with messages such as “Semper fi fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” and then created a web video about Matthew’s funeral memorializing their protest.  Matthew’s family sued the Phelps family and their church and won a jury verdict on three state torts: intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the jury verdict, concluding that the First Amendment protected respondents’ speech and conduct from any state law tort liability.  The Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari.

I intend to file a brief in the Supreme Court this Friday, May 28, in support of the Snyder family.  The brief will argue that the law should continue to protect, as it long has, the rights of all private persons—including the families of fallen soldiers—to mourn their loved ones at a peaceful and solemn funeral.  It will make three arguments.  First, it will describe the important role that funerals play for mourners, and the special protection accorded private funerals in American law.  Second, it will bring to the Court’s attention recently enacted federal and state statutes, including the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act (Pub. L. No. 109-228) and the Respect for the Funerals of Fallen Heroes Act (Pub. L. No. 109-464), which demonstrate the strong governmental interest in protecting private family funerals from disruption.  It will also urge the Court to ensure that its resolution of this case casts no doubt on the validity of these laws.  And third, the brief will point out how State tort laws supplement these funeral picketing regulations in deterring harmful conduct at private funerals and protecting the rights of mourners to express their own private messages of grief and tribute.  It will argue that respondents’ speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

If you would like to join the brief, please contact my office by Wednesday evening.  I would be happy to provide a draft of the brief for your review.


Harry Reid
Majority Leader

National Women’s Law Center

What would you do with $10,622?

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There’s a $10,622 gap between the median yearly earnings of men and women. For many women and their families, fixing the wage gap would mean enough for a year’s supply of groceries, three months of rent or child care, six months of health insurance, and more.

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Submit your photo today and join the conversation on the importance of fair pay for women and their families.

Fatima Goss GravesSincerely,

Fatima Goss Graves
Vice President for Education and Employment
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. Want to learn more about the importance of fair pay in these difficult times? Check out our new fact sheet on how women’s lower wages cause us even greater hardships in a struggling economy.

Voting today on border-only amendments

Reform Immigration FOR America

The Senate announced that they will be voting today on border-only amendments that would spend billions of dollars on the border while doing nothing for the twelve million undocumented immigrants living here. These amendments are being pushed by the same Republicans who think that racial profiling is the right solution for Arizona.


Tell your Senator:

I want you to vote “no” on any amendments that focus only on the border while ignoring the broader immigration crisis. Don’t fall for phony “solutions” that do nothing to address our real problems!

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Tell your Senator:

I want you to vote “no” on any amendments that focus only on the border while ignoring the broader immigration crisis. Don’t fall for phony “solutions” that do nothing to address our real problems!

Click here to send this free fax immediately

The votes could be starting any minuteplease click to send a fax right now, then ask your friends and family to do the same, so we can defeat these heinous amendments.

Thank you,
Marissa Graciosa
Reform Immigration FOR America

p.s. We’ll need at least 10,000 people faxing to have a chance at stopping these amendments – if you believe in immigration reform as I do, please send a free fax today!

We can Stop Them …

BP Deepwater disaster site
The real cost of oil.

Nothing can stop the human and environmental tragedy that we’re witnessing in the Gulf and on the coast of Louisiana. But we CAN stop the next disaster – we’re taking action right now and we urgently need your help.

Dolphins, turtles, pelicans and the residents of Louisiana are just some of the victims paying a horrible price as millions of gallons of oil pour into the ocean and onto the beaches of the Gulf. We were on-the-ground with our boat days after the spill providing scientists, oil spill experts and the media first-hand access to ensure that the full truth is known about this tragedy.

Please donate today to end offshore drilling and save the Arctic Ocean from a similar fate.

As BP fails to contain the damage they’ve caused in the Gulf, oil giant Shell are seeking a decision from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to allow them to drill off the Arctic coast this summer. Any disaster in this harsh and remote region would be catastrophic for the region’s polar bear, walrus, and bowhead whale populations.

Yesterday our activists took action using actual oil from the spill to paint “Arctic Next?” on the bridge of a drill supply ship contracted by Shell and due to head to Alaska for their Arctic drilling. Seven activists were arrested and are now being charged with felonies, for standing up to protect our oceans. Meanwhile, BP has to be criminally charged with anything!

Please make a generous donation today so we can hold companies like BP accountable and stop their plans for new offshore drilling.

I look forward to your support as we expose the truth and defend those who don’t have a voice to express their outrage.

Thank you,
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Campaigns Director

P.S. We must ban offshore drilling. Please help Greenpeace today with your most generous contribution so we can continue our work in the Gulf and in Washington, D.C., making sure that the ban on offshore drilling is instated and that we pass legislation to promote clean and sustainable energy solutions.

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