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Rhode Island State Immigration Laws

Learn about the basics of Rhode Island state immigration laws with this article. This will give you a comprehensive overview of the fundamental rights of immigrants in Rhode Island. The article gives particular emphasis on the rights of immigrants without proper documents. Below are the topics covered:

The intricacies of immigration law are challenging and daunting. Some rules apply differently in each case. But, it is crucial to learn about your rights regardless of your immigration status.

Law Enforcement and Immigration in Rhode Island

The federal government has agencies that handle matters related to immigration law enforcement. The following are some of these government entities:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — DHS safeguards the country from security threats. The department manages the following:

  • Enforcement of immigration laws
  • Securing U.S. borders
  • Coordinating emergency response
  • Other matters related to immigration issues

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — The USCIS oversees immigration to the United States. This includes the following:

  • Acquiring U.S. visas
  • Processing U.S. citizenship
  • Getting a lawful permanent residency or green card
  • Application for asylum

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — ICE enforces immigration laws by conducting investigations and detaining those who violate these rules. It also investigates those who illegally entered the country, overstayed their visas, or committed crimes in the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — This is another agency that falls under the umbrella of DHS. Its mission is to safeguard U.S. borders and protect them from dangerous people and materials. It also ensures legitimate trade and travel.

Although the federal government is the main body that administers immigration laws, there are state agencies that play crucial roles in its enforcement. These shared responsibilities are highlighted in the Criminal Apprehension Program (CAP).

With CAP, federal and local law enforcement authorities work together to arrest, identify, and remove non-U.S. citizens in the country. This applies, in particular, to those who pose a threat to communities and criminals at large.

Rhode Island Employment Check and E-Verify Requirements

The federal government created an online system called E-Verify. This system helps employees check the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. Various states mandate using E-Verify when hiring. This is particularly true for contractors working with the government. But in Rhode Island, using E-Verify is voluntary.

In March 2008, then-Governor Donald Carcieri signed an executive order requiring agencies and contractors within the state to use E-Verify. But Governor Lincoln Chafee revoked the mandate in 2011. This move was to support comprehensive dialogue with immigrant communities.

Now, E-Verify remains a voluntary measure for employers instead of a mandate.

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Immigrants living in Rhode Island illegally cannot get state identification cards or driver's licenses. But DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients can get state IDs and driver's licenses.

The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles may ask applicants for a driver's license to show proof of identification. These forms of identification may include the following:

  • Valid and unexpired passport
  • Certified copy of a birth certificate
  • Permanent resident card
  • Employment authorization document (EAD)
  • Valid and unexpired foreign passport
  • Social Security Administration statement

For a more detailed list, you may visit the DMV official website.

Public Benefit Restrictions

Immigrants without proper documentation can't get most public benefits and social services. But, they can use services that are essential for their health care and emergency services to protect their life and safety. Below are some of the services that immigrants in Rhode Island can use:

  • Child Care Development Fund
  • Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
  • Emergency Medicaid
  • Emergency shelter
  • Disaster relief

The public benefits migrants and immigrants could qualify for may change depending on their immigration status. This information is discussed in more detail on this chart compiled by American University.

Educational Benefits

On Sept. 26, 2011, Rhode Island's Residency Policy was amended. This amendment allowed eligible immigrants and DACA recipients to access in-state tuition.

The Rhode Island Student Access Act also extended access to in-state tuition regardless of immigration status.

But, students must meet the following criteria to qualify for in-state tuition:

  1. The student must have attended a high school in Rhode Island for three or more years.
  2. The student must have continuously lived in Rhode Island during those years.
  3. The student must have graduated from a high school in Rhode Island or received an equivalent diploma.
  4. The student must have filed an affidavit stating that they applied for lawful immigration status or will do so when eligible.

But refugees in Rhode Island can only access these adult education benefits once they meet the following:

  • 12-month residency rule
  • Permanent resident status

Housing Ordinance and Immigration

Rhode Island follows the Fair Housing Act. This act prevented discrimination in housing transactions based on the following:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Gender identity
  • Familial status.

Rhode Island fair housing law further extends this list to include the following:

  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Veteran status
  • Domestic violence victims

Related Resources

Various organizations and legal resources offer legal services and legal assistance to migrants in Rhode Island. The following are some of them:

  • Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island — An association of organizations that offer widespread advocacy to immigrant communities.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island — A nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and upholding the freedoms and civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
  • Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (RISE) — An organization that advocates for education and career development of Southeast Asian students living in Rhode Island.
  • National Immigration Law Center — An organization that advances the rights of low-income immigrants.
  • Know Your Rights — This pamphlet offers information about various civil liberties issues. This is helpful for anyone who would like to learn more about their rights and responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution.
  • FindLaw Immigration Law Resources — FindLaw offers free legal resources about various issues related to immigration law. We have articles covering the basics and more complex topics. Topics like green card application, naturalization, and more. This website also offers comprehensive information about other matters under state or federal law.

Note that this list is not exclusive. Other organizations and advocacy groups in Rhode Island offer referrals to service providers for immigrants and migrants.

Seek Legal Advice from an Immigration Attorney

Understanding the complexities of immigration laws can be pretty challenging. There are rules and regulations in every state that could affect law enforcement and implementation. Seek help from an immigration lawyer.

Immigration attorneys have extensive experience as interpreters of federal and immigration laws. They can give you a better understanding of your civil rights and offer legal advice tailored to your case. This is particularly important for those who are at risk of deportation or in need of legal assistance with matters in federal court.

Some of the immigration legal services that immigration attorneys offer are as follows:

  • Processing of naturalization or U.S. citizenship
  • Visa processing
  • Application for lawful permanent resident status or green card
  • Legal representation in immigration court
  • Other matters related to immigration law

You can also reach out to the Rhode Island Bar Association for help.

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