R.I. protests for immigrant rights

April 11, 2008

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--A torrent of protest broke out last week against Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri's new executive order mandating the state police to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and requiring state agencies and contractors to use the federal government's error-ridden "E-Verify" system to check the legal status of job applicants.

On March 31, about 250 people came out to a press conference held by leaders of service organizations and liberal politicians. On April 2, clergy leaders, including Carcieri's bishop, held a press conference denouncing the order. The next day, over 50 protested in the State House at a rally sponsored by several community organizations.

The week finished with a rally and vigil of about 40 that connected the antiracist struggle of Martin Luther King Jr. with the struggle for immigrant rights today. Gladys Gould, an organizer of the April 3 protest, observed, "Governor Carcieri has aligned himself with the anti-immigrant right-wing forces."

The Democratic leadership of the state legislature could reverse the governor's order, but they've been content to keep quiet so far. Unfortunately, the state's labor unions also seem to be holding their tongues, having no major presence at any of last week's events.

Victory will depend on solidarity among activist pro-immigrant forces and drawing in the unions--a model that was spectacularly successful for May Day 2006. It should be more than possible to defeat an unpopular, isolated Republican governor in this liberal state, but it will require unity and mass action.

Paul Hubbard contributed to this article.

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