Two Rhode Island Municipalities Win Significant Immigration Victory Over Federal Government

According to a report from, two Rhode Island cities—Providence and Central Falls—have officially scored an important victory for immigrant rights against the federal government. Federal officials are dropping an appeal that sought to force local police officers in these cities to cooperate closely with immigration agents. Notably, both Providence and Central Falls are sanctuary cities. Here, our Boston immigration lawyer explains the key things to know about this story.

The Stakes: How Much Authority Does the Federal Government have Over Local Policing?

Similar to many other localities across the country, Providence and Central Falls both have sanctuary city policies in place. Broadly speaking, these types of policies limit the cooperation between local law enforcement officers and federal immigration agencies, such as DHS and ICE.

Both cities had applied for and received a law enforcement-related financial grant from the federal government in the 2017 Fiscal Year. The Trump Administration tried to block that money—denying an approval that was already made—unless the cities relented and dropped their sanctuary policies.

Appeals Court Ruled in Favor of Providence and Central Falls

Providence and Central Falls were named plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the federal government. The cities were successful in their legal challenge. In March of 2020. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in favor of the two Rhode Island municipalities in the case of City of Providence and City of Central Falls v. William P. Barr. As explained in the decision, the DOJ took an impermissible shortcut when it attempted to impose retroactive conditions on the grants. In other words, the federal government did not have the authority to twist the arm of Providence, Central Falls, and any other city in an effort to get them to remove their sanctuary policies.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is Officially Dropping its Appeal

Until earlier this month, the federal government was technically still pursuing an appeal of the decision in favor of Providence and Central Falls. Of course, significant changes have come to Washington in recent months. Attorney General Merrick Garland—who was officially confirmed as the head of the DOJ on March 10th, 2021—has instructed the agency to drop its appeal of the 2020 federal court ruling in favor of Providence and Central Falls. As Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza told reporters, “Providence is a welcoming city”. It has now successfully gone up against the federal government in an important immigrant rights case.

Call Our Boston, MA Immigration Attorneys for Help With Your Case

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our Boston immigration lawyers are focused on finding solutions that work. We are qualified to handle the complete spectrum of immigration cases. Do you have questions? Our team is are here to get you answers that you count on. Call us now or send us a message online for a confidential review and evaluation of your case. From our office in Boston, our lawyers represent clients throughout New England, including in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

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