To the 2000 or more people who crowded the State House steps on Sunday, Governor Gina Raimondo‘s message was clear and unequivocal: “We’re in this together and don’t forget that! As your governor, I’m going to tell you what I said last week and what I said in my State of the State- There is a place for everyone in Rhode Island. There is a place for you in Rhode Island regardless of your faith, of your orientation, of who you love or who you marry or where you are from or your immigration status.”
Raimondo talked of being in her church that morning and praying. “I prayed for those who have the strength to be here and I pray for every one of us that we continue to have the strength to stand up for what’s right and resist. And I prayed for the children and grandchildren and the children of immigrants, as we all are, that America continues to be a place for them.
“We stand here today in solidarity with immigrant families who live here, who work here, who pay taxes here and who belong here.”
Two days later, appearing on WGBH with reporter Jim Braude, Raimondo sent a very different message. Asked if her staunch defense of immigrants will withstand a President who may withhold up to $3 billion in state assistance to Rhode Island, Raimondo said, “I’m not willing to lose federal money over this.
“I don’t think [Donald Trump can withhold federal funds.] I don’t think it’s legal,” said Raimondo, “The President cannot unilaterally decree that. So what I’ve said is let’s take it a day at a time, let’s be vigilant but not hysterical, uh, that’s a lot of money, your know, $3 billion flows into Rhode Island and I do have to make sure- I have to be practical- and make sure that my folks don’t get hurt.” [italics mine]
So if it is ruled legal to withhold federal funds, asked Braude, does that mean you comply?
“It depends,” replied Raimondo. “This is all about the details. So we’ll wait and see how it goes. But- The mayor of Providence, for instance, has said, ‘Look, we’ll give up our federal money, we are a sanctuary city.’ I’m not there yet.”
Do you support [Elorza] on that, asked Braude.
“That’s his decision. He’s running the city, I get billions of dollars of federal money that the people of Rhode Island need so I have to be practical.”
It is estimated that there are 30,000 undocumented persons in Rhode Island. To a crowd of thousands, Raimondo’s support for their human rights was absolute. When questioned by a reporter, Raimondo remembers her fiduciary duties and suddenly those 30,000 people have a price tag she may not be willing to pay. We may stand in solidarity, but when $3 billion is on the line the term my folks suddenly doesn’t apply to the undocumented.
The undocumented may belong here, live here and pay taxes here, but they don’t pay $3 billion in taxes. $3 billion is $100,000 per undocumented man, woman and child.
Perhaps no one, documented or not, is worth that much to Governor Raimondo.
Governor Raimondo’s office has not replied to a request for clarification.