ACLU Defends Illegal Immigrants – Police on Trial

9 01 2007

Cross posted from Liberally Conservative

The Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against the state police, alleging racial profiling and violation of the constitutional rights of 14 Guatemalan nationals during a July traffic stop that led to their detention by immigration officials. 

“The citizenship status of the plaintiffs is really irrelevant to this lawsuit. These were individuals who were in a van that was stopped for a minor traffic violation. The question is whether police have a right to detain individuals for no other reason than the way they look …” 

“The law generally prohibits racial profiling on the highways. It prohibits stopping or searching vehicles based on the person’s race or ethnicity, all of which we think were present in this case. It also specifically bars police officers from detaining individuals in cars longer than necessary to address the initial traffic violation. From our perspective, that restriction was clearly violated in this case.

The lawsuit names the State of Rhode Island, the state police, state police Supt. Steven M. Pare and Trooper Thomas Chabot individually; and a “Jane Doe” state trooper whose identity the ACLU was unable to establish.   
According to the lawsuit, Chabot pulled over a van operated by Carlos A. Tamup because Tamup had failed to use his turn signal when changing lanes.   The lawsuit alleges that Chabot first confirmed that Tamup’s license and registration were valid and that he had no criminal record.   

“Chabot nonetheless proceeded to open the doors of the vehicle, and by utilizing Tamup as a translator, requested all the passengers to also provide identification,” according to an ACLU synopsis of the case. When some failed to do so, Chabot then asked them to produce documents “demonstrating their U.S. citizenship.”

When none of the 14 were able to do so, Chabot advised them that they would all be escorted to the federal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Providence. There was a traffic violation and upon further inspection of the vehicle probable cause was being established. Not being able to speak English and provide identification would be a clue something is amiss.

Formisano, the ACLU lawyer, is seeking a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the constitutional rights of the driver and his passengers, and demands punitive and compensatory damages on behalf of the 11 plaintiffs.The lawsuit argues that the actions by the state police “violated the state’s Racial Profiling Prevention Act, as well as the driver’s and passengers’ constitutional rights to be free from discrimination and from unreasonable searches and seizures.”Illegal aliens have constitutional rights while breaking the law? The ACLU further claims state police shouldn’t be attempting to enforce Federal laws. What doesn’t the ACLU understand about “illegal” and “probable cause.” 

Brown said, “To their credit, many police departments across the country have rejected the opportunity to enforce those laws for a number of reasons. I think first they recognize they don’t have the expertise with these laws … also, that doing so undermines trust in the communities that they serve. People in immigrant communities are going to think twice before they contact police if they’ve been victims of a crime, if they think they’ll be the ones who end up on trial.”

Illegal immigrants and individuals who harbor them don’t trust police, possibly because they know laws are being broken.

Source: The Providence JournalThis was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email the coalition and let us know at what level you would like to participate.

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