In his post below this one, commenter FrankSkeffington claims that the Globe left a false impression that Tom Reilly has been inconsistent on the question of whether state police should be used to enforce immigration laws. Although the story as written is technically correct, I have to agree with FS that the impression of inconsistency is false.
Reilly’s position is quite easy to understand: Any illegal immigrant found to have violated criminal laws (i.e. not speeding tickets) would be referred to immigration authorities for deportation. Simple, and makes sense.
The Globe article says that Reilly said Romney’s proposal was “worth considering.” But after the WGBH debate, Reilly answered the question very carefully, slowly, and intently: He would entertain using police for immigration purposes if criminal laws were broken. (Reilly did not say “if and only if” — but I think that’s only unclear or inconsistent as a “gotcha”.) He then took pains to sum his position up thusly: “If you’ve violated criminal laws and you’re here illegally — outta here.” Listen yourself and see if he’s unclear: Start at about 3:15 in this audio clip.
Reilly’s position is clearly different from Romney’s proposal, in which state cops would be used as immigration agents:
Currently, State Police have no authority to arrest people on the basis of their immigration status alone, said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. If they arrest immigrants for violations of state law, troopers can call a centralized US Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Vermont to check on their status, and can detain immigrants if federal officials request it.
Under the agreement Romney is seeking, troopers would have greatly expanded powers: They could check an immigrant’s legal status during routine patrols such as during a traffic stop and decide whether the immigrant should be held.
In other words, Romney would actively use police to enforce federal immigration law; Reilly would have police refer illegals to immigration authorities after they’re arrested.
So, back to the alleged inconsistency. The problem is in the first paragraph of the Globe’s story:
When asked this week about Governor Mitt Romney’s proposal to deputize state troopers for immigration enforcement, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said the idea was worth considering.
If that paragraph had included the extra words “under certain circumstances”, there might be no problem. Listening to Reilly’s remarks to the press after the WGBH debate again, Reilly says it’s a national issue, but that he would entertain a “meaningful role that is carved out for states.” In context, I think it’s fairly clear that that role would come from federal legislation.
In addition, I completely agree with FrankSkeffington that the picture accompanying the article creates an appearance that people are protesting Reilly, when in fact they’re protesting Gov. Romney’s policy. I’ve seen similar misleading juxtapositions in the Globe and other papers. Editors need to be very careful about the visual narrative they create on their pages.
(This is a completely separate issue from Reilly’s enforcement of labor laws with state contractors. I don’t know enough about that to comment in an informed way, since I don’t know what Reilly’s options were vis-a-vis the facts of the case.)