Rhode Island Cities’ Immigration Lawsuit


Maybe I’m just getting tired of political drama, but I can’t get wrapped up in the political argument implicit in the lawsuit that the cities of Providence and Central Falls have brought against the Trump administration.  It’s really just… I guess cloying is the word.

First of all, nobody should actually believe that the progressive mayors of these two cities have a principled objection to the federal government’s use of grants to apply pressure on policy goals — even barely related policy goals.  We’ve just recently come off an eight-year lesson that, when the federal government is in progressive hands, the Left is happy to leverage whatever method of pen, phone, and policy will advance their ideological imperatives.  Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is therefore not credible when he says the following:

“We unequivocally reject this false choice,” he said. “We will not allow the federal government to weaponize federal grant funding in an effort to advance this administration’s agenda.”

Actually, the mayor included a sly wiggle:  “this administration’s agenda.”  Weaponizing federal grant funding would presumably be fine in order to advance another administration’s agenda.

Second of all, the amounts in question are arguably not in keeping with claims about “critical” funding:

Friday is the deadline to accept the funds that were awarded with the new conditions, they said. Providence was awarded more than $200,000 for fiscal year 2017. Central Falls was awarded nearly $30,000.

Providence has used the funding awarded in past years to pay for a bilingual liaison to work with families and pay for overtime for enforcement patrols. Central Falls has paid for technology upgrades. Police chiefs from both cities said these conditions shouldn’t be attached to grants that are crucial to police operations.

For Providence, that grant amount is just 0.03% of its total budget.  It’s 0.12% of its public safety budget.  If these programs are so important, the mayors can find (or raise) the money for them.

Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

In short, this is just a couple of mayors using taxpayers’ legal resources to posture.  Worse, they are doing so in order to grandstand against a requirement that American municipalities make modest concessions to the federal government’s effort to enforce federal law.

We could have a variety of debates about the wisdom of every policy involved — from federal immigration law to local reliance on federal grants — but debate would require getting past these mayors’ tiresome political rhetoric.

  • Mario

    The funny part of playing the hypocrisy game is that you can’t get involved without yourself becoming a hypocrite, too. “Sure, I think that the Federal government doesn’t have the power to commandeer local resources, but they don’t, and that’s all that matters this time. Then the issue reverses, and the principle reappears.

    The fact is that the true highest principle for everyone involved, the only principle they actually have, is making sure that the other side never gets a win. Real principles are an awfully inconvenient thing to be saddled with.

    • Justin Katz

      That isn’t fair. My suggestion would be to stop taking federal grants like these, especially when there are strings attached. If a program is really critical, fund it locally. Of course, I’ve found that those who seek to present as the reasonable, principled middle ground often aren’t reasonable or principled in assessing the supposed extremes. Much easier to propose a field of hypocrites amidst which you can shine.

      • Mario

        No, unfair would be suggesting that the only reason a person would support further empowering the weaponization of the federal grant making process is because this particular policy promises to make life difficult for immigrants. Even though it is the sole purpose of the policy, I don’t think that’s why you are willing to overlook the methods being used to achieve the goal.

        As deep as you are into the cult, I don’t think it’s simple blind “MAGA,” either. I don’t think you’ve fallen into fretting about white genocide. So what great risk is left that this kind of policy seeks to address, other than the potential failure to “own the libs?” Personally, I think I picked the most fair reading of the situation, unless I got you wrong.

        Now, from my perspective, there’s nothing different with this than when the Democrats try to limit the First Amendment. The weapons you assemble are going to end up in the hands of your enemies. Closed border policies don’t achieve much of value, and certainly not anything worth the price here.

        And I have never claimed to be reasonable. Far from it.

        • Justin Katz

          But I don’t support the policy. However, I don’t support it because I don’t support the federal government’s using grants to manipulate policy at all, which is implicit to all federal grants. But if the federal government is going to give grants, then the manipulation has to be equal opportunity.

          • Mario

            Great! Except that it seems the sensible course would be to express support for a lawsuit that, whatever the intentions, would actually do something to prevent future abuses far more than it would help the plaintiffs in the short-term. Unless redressing past grievances is more important than making concrete progress, which I think is fairly described as dumping one’s principles to “own the libs.”

          • Justin Katz

            You make a fair point, but it’s a point not really relevant to this post, which begins by expressing an inability to get wrapped up in the political argument and ends acknowledging the room for debate over the related issues. You’ve raised one of those issues, but I think you overstate how much “concrete progress” toward establishment of a principle I support could be made.

            The likelihood is that the courts would find some narrow reason to restrain the Trump administration’s actions (as they’ve done repeatedly). Maybe that would go to the Supreme Court, which might support or reverse the rulings on similarly narrow grounds or maybe might affirm the principle to which I object, which would be helpful, but only if it were plausible that the electorate could be rewarded with a change in law or constitution to reverse the practice.

            So, it’s not impossible that some good could come from the lawsuit, but the likelihood is so small and the route so circuitous that I better serve the same ends (with my limited power) by pointing out the hypocrisy of the mayors. The legal route is insecure if the population doesn’t understand the principles.

          • BasicCaruso

            So you and the RICFP support Providence, Central Falls, and the state in their suits against the federal government?

            The cities of Providence and Central Falls—and in a separate suit, the state of Rhode Island—are taking the Department of Justice and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to court over its manipulation of federal grant funds to support the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agenda.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Massachusetts has an interesting system, which I think I understand. “Cities” receive grants directly from the federal government, complete with all of the “strings”. For “towns” it is a different story. It is still federal money, but it spends an expensive night on the town in Boston. It is then distributed to the towns through a special agency. However the federal “strings” are lost. Hardly an expert on this, there may be bits I overlooked.