Establishment Press Misses Rhode Island Parallel to Ariz. Immigration Law for Nearly Three Months

AZ-mexico-borderPreconceived notions are dangerous things in journalism. They cause one to assume facts that aren't in evidence, leading to false or incomplete results.

A classic example has played out in the nearly three months since Arizona passed its "1070 law." Among other things, it mandates that law enforcement officials verify citizenship status in situations involving police contact if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone is not in the country legally.

It seems that virtually everyone covering the story has been assuming that Arizona's law is the first of its kind. Well, maybe as a "law" it is. But in Rhode Island, of all places, Boston Globe reporter Maria Sacchetti finally noticed on July 6 (HT Hot Air) that police have been doing what Arizona will start doing on July 29 since 2008 as a result of a gubernatorial executive order:

R.I. troopers embrace firm immigration role
In contrast to Mass., they report all who are present illegally

From Woonsocket to Westerly, the troopers patrolling the nation’s smallest state are reporting all illegal immigrants they encounter, even on routine stops such as speeding, to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

“There are police chiefs throughout New England who hide from the issue . . . and I’m not hiding from it,’’ said Colonel Brendan P. Doherty, the towering commander of the Rhode Island State Police. “I would feel that I’m derelict in my duties to look the other way.’’

Rhode Island’s collaboration with federal immigration authorities is controversial; critics say the practice increases racial profiling and makes immigrants afraid to help police solve crimes.

But it is a practice that Governor Deval Patrick’s opponents in the governor’s race are urging Massachusetts to revive. The Patrick administration has staunchly opposed having state troopers enforce immigration laws, and shortly after he took office in 2007, the governor rescinded a pact by his predecessor, Mitt Romney, to assign 30 troopers to the so-called federal 287(g) program, which trains local police to enforce federal immigration law.

... In 2008, Governor Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, issued an executive order mandating immigration checks on all new state workers and ordering State Police to assist federal immigration officials.

Sitting in his office in an old farmhouse off a country highway, Doherty said the State Police had collaborated with federal immigration officials before, but the relationship has become more formal in recent years. In 2007, he said, he trained all state troopers in how to deal with noncitizens because of widespread confusion and because Congress did not resolve the issue of illegal immigration. Troopers learned to notify consulates when noncitizens are arrested, how to recognize different forms of identification, and how to deal with different cultures.

One can't help but wonder how well Ms. Sacchetti or whoever came up with the idea of looking into Rhode Island's posture is being treated in the Globe's newsroom these days. Her bosses and the rest of the establishment press should be really be asking themselves why they didn't bother to look into what other states are doing when the Arizona law passed. Or, worse if true, they should be justifying why parallels they did find (how could they have missed California, as noted by the NewsBusters staff on Friday?) were somehow not worthy of coverage.

Did they decide to not look at Rhode Island because "everybody knows" that such a liberal state couldn't possibly be strictly enforcing immigration laws -- when in fact it is?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.