Return of the Country Party: Patriotic Immigration Reform Winning in Rhode Island

Q: Where was the first shot fired in the
American Revolution?
A: Not at Lexington and Concord— but in the waters of Narragansett Bay,
Rhode Island

June 9, 1772

a British schooner enforcing tariffs, ran aground
during low tide. Before a rising tide could lift the
vessel, a group of Rhode Islanders rowed out and boarded
it. They easily defeated the crew, shot and wounded an
officer, and set the
Gaspee ablaze.

The American Revolution had


To this day in
Rhode Island
, the village of Pawtuxet
celebrates "Gaspee
with great fanfare every June. And the
charming seaside town of Bristol holds the
continuous Fourth of July celebration

Maybe history will repeat itself.
From its birth, Rhode Island has always
been among the most independent of states—and among the
most eccentric. It was the first state to

declare independence from Great Britain
, but the
very last to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Indeed,

was red hot in colonial
Rhode Island

and it refused to send a single representative to the

Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
. Instead,
Rhode Islanders formed the
"Country Party" to oppose ratification of the new federal

They held out as long as they
could, and only after much political arm-twisting did
they reluctantly vote for ratification—in May, 1790,
more than a year after

George Washington
was inaugurated President of the United States. The vote was 34-32 in
favor of joining the Union.

Rhode Island
`s independent
streak endured for a long time. For example, it was

one of only two states
to reject the 18th
Amendment (Prohibition).
Today, however,
Rhode Island

has lost much of that independence as they have come
under the thumb of the federal government—just
as the Anti-Federalists had warned.
But the
eccentricity remains, and so too does the endearing
insularity that makes Rhode Island different from any other place
in the country.

Given the size of
Rhode Island
, how could it be
otherwise? At
1,231 square miles
, the state is only slightly
larger than

Yosemite National Park
. At its shortest points, it
is only 48 miles long north to south and only 37 miles
long east to west. They call it the
not just
because of its beautiful coastline, but because
virtually every Rhode Islander lives within an hour`s
drive of the beach.

If any state in the union can be
considered a city-state, it is
Rhode Island
. Colonial Rhode
Islanders thought of the state as their
"country" and their modern day counterparts are not all that
different. Rhode Islanders are defiantly proud of their
state and jealously retain their local nomenclature,
customs and
. At many restaurants, patrons just might
order a "Coffee
(milk mixed with coffee syrup) or a
(milkshake) or an
"Awful Awful"
(a really thick milkshake that`s
"awfully big,
awfully good"
). And to eat, one might order
"johnnycakes" (cornbread pancakes) or a
(hotdog) or some
(hard shell clams).

It is hard to imagine how anyone
could grow up in Rhode Island and consider
himself a
"citizen of the world"

downside of this Ocean

insularity: an incestuous political culture. In a state
where everybody knows everybody, nepotism is rampant;
hence, so is

political corruption

In the
last twenty years,
two chief justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
have been forced to resign
, one over his alleged
ties to organized crime. In 1998, former Governor Edward

went to prison for bribery
after he was discovered
rummaging through the trash behind a restaurant looking
for an envelope filled with $10,000 that he had
mistakenly thrown out. In 1984, Providence Mayor
was forced to resign after assaulting a man
in his home with an ashtray and a fireplace log. But
Cianci successfully ran again in 1990 and became the
most popular mayor in the city`s history until
he was convicted of racketeering in 2002.
successor, David
, is the

son of a well-known Mafia attorney

"What is intriguing about Rhode Island", wrote
Maria Flook
in her Newport-set novel Open Water,
"is this
undercurrent of petty crime, and what makes it delicious
is that it`s set against this incredible beauty."

The Ocean
has some of the
prettiest towns, beaches and harbors in the country.
Perhaps that is why Rhode Islanders have long been so
forgiving of their culture of graft. The place is just
so beautiful, you could never hold a grudge against it.

In the
last decade, however, a growing number of legal and
illegal immigrants began to stamp their cultural
footprint onto this tiny state of just over one million
people. Cities like Providence and Pawtucket began to suffer
the usual sudden increase in


gang activity
, and
emergency rooms
clogged with


The new
immigrants also brought with them a strange kind of
diversity that Rhode Islanders found difficult to
celebrate. It began in small ways, like the planting of
a "Cesar
Chavez Garden
. But the culture clash
eventually became more obvious and more bizarre, for
example when Bolivians began holding an ethnic
celebration in Providence every summer. At the annual
Urkupina Festival, participants parade a statue of the

"Virgin of Urkupina"
and dance the
(Devil Dance) through the streets of downtown

Apparently, in Bolivia the
miners believe that the devil rules the underworld and
therefore they must placate and honor him. One
participant told the
Providence Journal: "The
miners love the devil because he gives them money from
the mines and he guards the mines."
angels abound at Bolivians` joyous, colorful Urkupina
, By Tatiana Pina,
| The Providence Journal, August 17, 2008]

fact that there is no mining industry in
Rhode Island
did not seem to
faze them.

obviously, unlike
previous generations of immigrants
, there newcomers
seem to have almost no desire to
assimilate into American culture.


Tolman High School

was once a respectable middle class school, but it is
now mostly populated by immigrants. The school has an
on-site day care center for its many teenage mothers and
a dropout rate of

over 50 percent.
Tolman`s principal

told the
Providence Journal
that many Caribbean students leave at Christmas time and do not
return for months primarily because their parents do not
want them to assimilate into American ways. Other
students from the Dominican Republic
only enroll at Tolman High long enough to learn basic
English for the purposes of working in the tourist
industry. Once they achieve English competency, they
return home to the
Dominican Republic
put their skills to work.

In the last few years, Ocean State
immigrants also began to flex their political muscle,
such as during the
in May, 2006 when immigrant advocates tried
to pressure businesses to close for the day in a sign of
immigrant solidarity. Thousands of immigrants

marched through downtown Providence

"Si, se puede" and
demanding their
One of their principal leaders was the

"charismatic" Dolores

A purported
"model minority,"
Ms. Laflamme worked as a Latino
for the Democratic Party. She was
visible in a number of political campaigns, including
those of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Providence Mayor
David Cicilline. She even ran herself to be head of a

ward, under the slogan
"A New

The only problem: Laflamme was an
illegal immigrant from the

Dominican Republic
. Her single attempt to gain legal
status was a

sham marriage
to a convicted heroin dealer.

Worse, Laflamme worked at the
Department of Motor Vehicles where she and several other
illegal aliens had

cooked up a scheme
to sell
Rhode Island

drivers licenses for as much as $3,000 a piece. After
selling hundreds of phony licenses to illegal aliens,
she was

finally arrested last year.

Laflamme`s successor as Latino
community leader is

Juan Garcia
of the

"Comité de Inmigrantes en Acción,"
headquartered in the basement of a
Catholic church in
. The main reason
Garcia is reluctant to translate his organization`s name
into English is because he cannot speak it. He eagerly
appears at
press conferences and public forums
, but must rely
on an interpreter each time he warns immigration
reformers against

In March, 2008, Governor Don
Carcieri issued an

Executive Order
that requires state agencies and
contractors to verify the legal status of all their
employees. It also directs the state police and the
Department of Corrections to work with the U.S.
Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
to ensure that federal immigration law is enforced. The
order suggests—but does not require—that local law
enforcement do likewise.

Governor Carcieri`s Executive Order
set off a predictable controversy among much of the
political class. Eight members of the Governor`s
Hispanic Advisory Commission resigned in protest and
held a press conference outside the state house. Juan
Garcia, his interpreter by his side, called the
Executive Order an act of
"social genocide"
). [Ex-Hispanic
Commission members blast Carcieri
, By Vinaya
Saksena, Pawtucket
August 16, 2008]]

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Archdiocese of Providence


the Governor`s Executive Order, repeating

many well-refuted bromides a
bout how immigration
enforcement has "separated
family members, innocent of any crime, from one
Tobin has also asked the federal
government to allow Catholic ICE agents to claim
objector status."
Tobin, Catholic Pastors Urge ICE to Cease Raids, Allow
Agents to Exercise `Conscientious Objection`
Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Press Release](It
apparently has not occurred to Bishop Tobin that if
Catholic ICE agents found arresting illegal aliens
morally objectionable, then they would never have
applied for the job.)

Governor Carcieri, a Catholic, has
thus far resisted Bishop Tobin`s machinations. So have
the vast majority of Rhode Islanders. This is no small
victory given that
Rhode Island

is 63% Roman Catholic, making it the most Catholic state
in the union. Indeed, Bishop Tobin has characterized the
public response to his calls for
de facto
amnesty as "vile." [Bishop
says mail response to immigration letter has been `vile`
By Karen Lee Ziner,
Providence Journal, September 11, 2008] But he
should expect no less given that the Archdiocese of
Providence has been

notoriously hard-nosed
when negotiating settlements
with its many victims of clerical sex abuse.

Most local police departments have
thus far been willing to cooperate with Governor
Carcieri`s order. Only the state capital of Providence has resisted.
Carcieri has

called Providence
"sanctuary city,"
but Mayor David Cicilline

adamantly denies it
. Cicilline also claims that the
Providence Police

already report all arrests to ICE.
But in reality,
the police only fax ICE a
list of all suspects being arraigned each day—a weak
attempt to avoid the label of
"sanctuary city." Tellingly, ICE even

offered to place one of its agents at the Providence
Police headquarters
but the department turned them

A few months after Carcieri`s
Executive Order, the danger of such politically-correct
police work would become all too obvious. On June 8th,
27 year-old Marco Riz, an illegal alien from Guatemala,
was fired from his job as a cook at the Texas Roadhouse
restaurant in Warwick when he showed up for work
intoxicated. Drunk and angry, Riz then left the
restaurant and walked down the street toward a Stop &
Shop supermarket. In the parking lot, a thirty year old
woman waited in the passenger seat of an idling SUV
while her mother ran a quick errand. Brandishing a
twelve inch-long knife, Riz jumped into the driver`s
seat and demanded the woman`s money and credit cards. He
then put the car in drive and drove off with the
terrified woman, speeding along the highway at over 100
mph until he reached
. Riz then drove the
woman to a secluded section of a public park, dragged
her into the woods, and raped her twice.

Marco Riz was arrested within days
after his image, caught on a mall security camera, was
broadcast across the state. It turns out that Riz was a
wanted fugitive who had been ordered deported in 2004. [Fox
News, YouTube
] Moreover, the Providence Police had
arrested Riz twice in the past year, once for assault,
and once for
. In the latter arrest, Riz did not even
provide a drivers license and the

officer had to administer the sobriety test in Spanish.

charged in Warwick robbery, rape
, By Amanda
Milkovits, The
Providence Journal,
June 14, 2008]

Had the

Providence Police
notified ICE of Riz`s arrest, this
woman could have been spared such a nightmarish ordeal.

The highly-publicized Riz incident
a huge blow
to the already reeling open borders
lobby in Rhode
. They suffered another
significant defeat last week. On September 15th,
a state Superior Court Judge


American Civil Liberties Union`s attempt
to have
Governor Carcieri`s Executive Order overturned. Local
immigrant advocates now appear to have few cards left to

Recently, Governor Carcieri has

formed an arrangement with ICE
where illegal aliens
now serving time for non-violent crimes can gain an
early release from prison if they agree to immediate
deportation with no possibility of returning to the
This saves the
state money and gives the immigrant his freedom.

Governor Don Carcieri`s heroic
leadership on immigration is already having a positive
impact across the state. Illegals are self-deporting in
high numbers. Overcrowded urban schools have seen a
significant drop in enrollment this fall
. The day
laborers are no longer loitering on the street corners.
And it appears that even the Providence Police have
quietly begun to back away from their former obstinate
refusal to work with ICE.

Despite these victories, however,
patriotic Rhode Islanders are not resting on their
laurels. There are several tough enforcement bills now
moving through the state legislature. A bill
that would make
mandatory for all state employers stands a
very good chance of passing in the next year.

"To love the
little platoon we belong to in society,"
, "is
the first principle (the germ as it were) of public
The Ocean State

is made up of little platoons where public affection
runs high. The average Rhode Islander loves his state,
his hometown and, it should be no surprise, his country.
Local pride and national pride usually go together.

There have been more dark days than
sunny ones in the long struggle for patriotic
immigration reform. But things are definitely looking
brighter in
Rhode Island

In this, the birthplace of the
American Revolution, the Country Party is making a

Matthew Richer (
him) is a writer living in Massachusetts. He is the former American
Editor of Right NOW magazine.