Indivisible RI visited Attorney General Peter Kilmartin‘s office in Providence on Tuesday to urge the AG “to file a lawsuit against President [Donald] Trump’s anti-immigration/
Kilmartin’s Senior Policy Advisor Mathew D. Lenz handled himself pretty well considering he could not give any answers that would satisfy the 15 people who had crowded into the lobby of the Attorney General’s office. Lenz could not let people into a room inside the office to have a discussion because he said there were confidential meetings taking place and there might not be a meeting room in the office big enough. He said that Kilmartin could not come down to talk to the people who had gathered from all over the state to see him because the AG was “in meetings all day.” and Lenz could not get anyone else from the AG’s office to come down to talk to the people either.
“How can we find out why the decision was made to [not join the suit]?” asked a man in the crowd.
“You’d have to talk to Amy Kempe, who is our press person,” replied Lenz.
“Is she available?” asked a woman.
“No, she is not available, no. She is out of the office,” said Lenz.
As Bob Plain reported Monday, “Kilmartin considered signing onto Washington and Minnesota’s lawsuit as a co-signer but instead decided to file as a friend of the court, or amicus, brief, said [Kilmartin spokeswoman Amy Kempe]. “We reviewed the language of the lawsuit filed by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and made the determination that while we do not have legal standing to join that lawsuit, but that, as we did today, we could file an amicus in support.'”
Andy Acciaioli, executive director of Indivisible RI, told Lenz that in a phone call Kempe indicated that Rhode Island didn’t have standing because there was no one in Rhode Island affected by the Muslim ban. Acciaioli said that he was aware, through his visit to Senator Jack Reed‘s office hours earlier, of several Rhode Islanders who were affected by the ban. Acciaioli suggested Lenz contact Reed’s office for details.
Jane Tucker, a member of Indivisible RI, pushed back on the issue of standing, pointing out that Republican Attorneys General had filed suit against the Obama administration multiple times without standing.
“And we opposed a number of the Republican attorneys general lawsuits,” said Lenz. “We follow the rule of law, that’s how we operate at this office.”
“We’re here because we’re concerned, obviously,” said Deborah Lennon, a member of Indivisible Newport County. “We do have people impacted. There are students. There is a Brown graduate student who is a doctor who is now stuck somewhere in a refugee camp.
“So there are plenty of people impacted and we are expecting not just reaction, but action. Proactive. We’re expecting opposition,” said Lennon.
“I will bring that to the Attorney General,” said Lenz.
“I’m sure we could find standing if we look,” said a woman.
“I’m not sure if that’s accurate,” said Lenz, “I’m getting my information from people higher up than me.”
“How can we best interact with [Kilmartin’s] office on an ongoing basis?” asked Lennon.
Lenz offered his business card to people in the room.
“Can we set an appointment with him through you?” asked a man.
“Well,” said Lenz, “Go through his scheduler, Monica, but if you guys send me an email I can give you her information or forward it to her…”
“When we talk about the bills that are in the General Assembly currently, is the attorney general going to come out against those bills that are clearly anti-undocumented immigrants?” asked Tucker. Tucker here is referring to bills such as H5093, which would mandate city, town and state police to work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and H5041 which would reinstate E-Verify.
Lenz was non-committal. “We have to look at the language of every bill, to see if it impacts our office.”
If H5093 passes, said Tucker, “It would block any Sanctuary effort in our state.”
“I’m not sure of the act,” said Lenz.
“We need you to take a very close look at that and make sure it never sees the light of day,” said Lennon.
As an aside, people are right to be wary of Kilmartin on immigration. As reported in GoLocal, on January 12, 2011, “Kilmartin signed a memorandum of agreement with Immigration and Custom Enforcement. The MOA was also sent to the Department of Homeland Security for approval.”
“As Attorney General, I have a duty and obligation to safeguard our communities and to provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools and technology they need to do their jobs effectively,” Kilmartin said then. “Secure Communities is a proactive method of making neighborhoods safe by dealing with individuals who have committed crimes against us. The program has a proven track record of enhancing public safety by focusing on violent offenders and those that pose a threat to our communities and our national security.”
As a state representative, Kilmartin earned praise from his Democratic colleagues “for his aggressive, but patient demeanor as a House leader in rounding up support for controversial legislation such as the E-Verify bill and gauging sentiment on the floor, according to Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr., a Narragansett Democrat. The E-Verify bill died in the Senate, but would have required private employers to electronically verify the work-eligibility status of new hires through the federal E-Verify system.”
Kilmartin voted for E-Verify bills in 2008 and 2009 while in the General Assembly.
“One of the things that we’re worried about is civil rights,” said Tucker.
“Tom Palombo is the best guy. Get his email on the website and he’s pretty good at getting back to people and he’s our civil rights advocate,” said Lenz.
“We need to set up a meeting, we need face-to face time,” said a woman, “I’m a voter for Peter Kilmartin, I campaigned for him. I’m pretty upset that as a voter and resident that I can’t get through that door and I have to stand in the lobby…”
“If we had notice,” said Lenz, “that would have been a different story.”
“How about next Tuesday?” for a meeting with Kilmartin.
“I don’t have his schedule,” said Lenz, “That goes to Monica, his scheduler, so…”
“Can we talk to Monica?”
“Moncia is upstairs, that’s uh, you know…”
Other things brought up by the people for Kilmartin to consider was a hate-crime hotline, something Kilmartin has repeatedly expressed no interest in, saying that such calls should be made to the police, and the need for a full time civil rights attorney at the AG’s office. Tom Palombo, who handles civil rights at Kilmartin’s office, also does government litigation.
“I’ve got to be honest,” said Tucker, “Having a person who is partially dedicated to civil rights and not even an entire agency of people…”
“It’s a question of resources,” said Lenz.