Arthur Christopher Schaper: Cicilline’s “Grand Theft Auto” Sanctuary City

Jessica Vaughn, a research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, issued a blistering report against sanctuary cities for illegal aliens throughout the country.  The rising crime rates (including murder) afflicting American citizens have attracted more-pressing attention following the brutal death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, California.

Vaughn testified before Congress  late July on this problem, and the overarching need for Congress to stop the municipal madness that allows illegal aliens to roam free in American cities. Some of her most telling comments at the hearing included:

As someone who has also lost a close family member,” Vaughan said, “my brother, because of a negligent act by a sworn law enforcement officer and also a bad policy — and I should add that the offense that was committed was one that some on this committee would call a ‘minor traffic offense’ that killed my brother, I have to say that it is really not OK to refer to these tragedies as a ‘little thing,’ as one member of this committee has.

Her remarks about Providence, Rhode Island, and former Mayor David Cicilline caught my attention:

“I have a friend. Her name is Heather. A few years ago, she was carjacked at knife-point and taken to Roger  Williams’ Park in Providence, Rhode Island, and raped repeatedly by an illegal alien who had been in the custody of the Providence Police Department more than once,” but was released thanks to a mayor’s sanctuary city policies.

“This was not a ‘little thing,’” she declared. “I have other friends, some in this room, who can tell similar stories. And I’m afraid Congress is about to get away with doing just a ‘little thing’ just by barring funding from these sanctuary jurisdictions, some funding. And I’m asking you today to not be satisfied by just doing a ‘little thing.’ This big problem requires you to have the courage to do a bigger thing.”

I contacted Vaughn by email, and she affirmed for me this terrible tragedy. Congressman Cicilline may have been a victim of his own policies when somebody broke into his car and took personal effects and paperwork, but other Rhode Islanders and Americans face much worse attacks.

Arthur Christopher Schaper: Tell me more about what Cicilline did and did not do regarding immigration in Providence.

Jessica Vaughn:  I am not sure of the full extent of the sanctuary policies maintained under Mayor Cicilline with respect to public welfare benefits, but I am very familiar with those that pertained to immigration law enforcement.  I am told by veteran ICE agents that before his administration, they had a good relationship with Providence PD.  They had an agent who was stationed at the police department who could interview offenders after arrest and, if appropriate, begin the deportation process that would kick in after their criminal charges were disposed, after sentencing, etc.  In addition, the agent could work with the department on certain types of investigations, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, gangs, etc.

Her next comments are particularly disturbing.  She highlights key reasons that citizens should demand E-Verify and oppose driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.

Providence has a significant problem with gangs that have illegal alien members and leaders.  There have been some important federal cases involving human smuggling rings, document and id theft rings, and other major criminal conspiracies by crime organizations based in Rhode Island.  Also some serious driver’s license fraud cases, not to mention chronic problems of illegal employment.

However, under Mayor Cicilline, none of this cooperation was allowed.  I am not sure if he shut it down, or if it happened before, but most definitely under his administration it was not allowed.  Around 2007-08, the regional ICE office was conducting training programs for local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.  ICE wanted to set up standard protocols for how to handle cases of criminal alien arrests.  At the time, a lot of police agencies were aware of the problems, and would refer many cases to ICE — more than they could handle, and ICE wanted to communicate better so that everyone understood what kind of cases were a priority, and that ICE simply couldn’t handle every single illegal alien caught on a traffic stop.

Crimes committed by illegal aliens in Providence: more than the ICE could handle?

They wanted referrals of serious and violent criminals, drunk drivers, gang members, large numbers of illegal workers, and so on.  In addition, ICE wanted to have an efficient information sharing system, so police would be aware of someone ICE was looking for, be able to find out immigration status, full criminal history and prior deportations, and ICE could respond promptly when the locals had someone who should not be released.  For example, it would not work for all these police departments to randomly send faxes listing every person arrested that day or week; ICE had no efficient way to deal with that, instead they had a 24/7 hot line that interfaced with the existing automated electronic law enforcement interagency communication system (NLETS).  Also, ICE wanted officers to learn more about identification documents, how to question foreign nationals, their rights (for example, that they have to notify foreign consulates), dealing with victims and witnesses, etc.  They wanted them to understand to look for ICE warrants in the system, and about ICE detainers.  Every single police agency in the state willingly and gratefully participated in this training — except for Providence Police Department, which did not allow its officers to attend.

As a result, when illegal alien offenders were arrested in Providence, ICE had no way of knowing.  In addition, when Providence PD arrested an illegal alien, they had no way of knowing who the person really was, what his or her criminal history was, where they were from, what else they might be involved in.

So, in addition to misleading reports on Providence’s fiscal situation, plus distorted information on the city’s pension liabilities, Cicilline refused to permit his police force to receive necessary training on violent illegal aliens.

So when a Guatemalan illegal alien named Marco Riz, who was already known to ICE and considered bad enough for them to issue a warrant of arrest, got himself arrested a couple of times in Providence for relatively minor charges (I don’t remember exactly, but I think they were bar-room brawl or routine assault type crimes), the Providence PD policy was to ignore the ICE warrants and release him in the hope that he might show up in court to answer to his local charges.  No phone call, no email, no problem for Riz to be in the country illegally.


Riz was illegally employed at a Texas Roadhouse as a dishwasher.  One day in 2008 he was fired.  He went out and got drunk as a skunk and decided to carjack a vehicle parked in front of a grocery story with a woman in the passenger seat, who was waiting for her mother.  He drove to Roger Williams Park and raped her repeatedly at knifepoint.  As far as I know, he is now in prison in Rhode Island, at least for a couple more years.  I expect that he will be deported after his sentence, but that’s a little late to protect Heather.

ACS: Can you direct me to news reports about what happened to your friend raped by an illegal alien in Roger Williams Park?  

JV: Here is one of the basic news stories on the case.  In addition, there were many other stories about the police policies, including my own op-ed that was also published in the Providence Journal.  Cicilline and his police chief, Dean Esserman (who later resigned in disgrace and is now chief in New Haven, Connecticut) fought back in the public, and tried to deflect responsibility on to ICE.

Particularly disturbing about this line of answers, the former police chief of Providence, who refused to cooperate with ICE, still supervises a police department in New England. Have the crime rates soared in Connecticut, too?

ACS: Why do you think that Cicilline was able to get reelected in spite of his terrible record on immigration, fiscal policy, etc.? 

JV: Good question.  I don’t think the voters were fully aware of the fiscal problems until after he was elected to Congress.  In addition, I suspect that voters in Providence supported him for ideological or other political reasons, not for his record on public safety or fiscal responsibility.  If I recall correctly, he had strong support from traditional urban Democratic Party activist blocs, such as the unions.  I don’t recall if there was a strong opponent in the primary or general election.  Machine politics generally rule in Rhode Island, like in much of New England.

The Providence baker informed me about the power of Rhode Island’s public sector unions. Vaughn confirms their inordinate influence in the state.

ACS: In your research, why do these sanctuary city policies even exist? What interests are promoting these policies in Providence, San Francisco, etc? 

JV: These policies exist because certain politicians are more interested in currying favor with certain activist groups who they hope will help with their elections than they are concerned about the public safety ramifications of releasing criminal aliens.  Their excuse is that they want immigrants to trust local police, but that is not supported by facts or law enforcement experience.  In truth, sanctuary policies are imposed for political reasons, not public safety reasons.

“Grand Theft Auto” Cicilline played his city like a videogame from hell, with bad financing, poor leadership, and public sector unionism run amok. Now he has blood on his hands following the brutal rape of Vaughn’s friend Heather in Roger Williams Park among other crimes in Providence during his tenure.

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