Legislative Inaction on Minnesota’s Illegal Immigration
By Ruthie Hendrycks
The issue of illegal immigration is a controversial issue in the State of Minnesota and nationwide. The topic usually conjures heated dialogue and debate. Adding fuel to emotional response and posturing is the continued practice of rhetorically combining legal immigration with illegal immigration. It should be clearly understood, that Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform, Minnesota Majority, like-minded groups and individuals who are opposed to illegal immigration, support sensible legal immigration that compliments the United States of America. Governor Pawlenty shares this rational sentiment. “Legal immigration is an important part of our American heritage, but we need to do more to combat illegal immigration,” he said.
To understand what role states may or should play in this issue, one must first understand the current facts on a nationwide level. There are approximately 12-20 million illegal aliens in the United States, with an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 in Minnesota.
Due to the failure of the federal government to adequately address - and act on - the issue of illegal immigration via enforcement of our laws and the lack of security both on our southern and northern borders, many states have been forced to address the issue at a state level.
Legislation addressing illegal immigration is on the rise in state governments. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, “As of July 2, 2007, no fewer than 1404 pieces of legislation related to immigrants and immigration had been introduced among the 50 state legislatures. Of these bills, 182 bills became law in 43 states. Governors have vetoed four of the bills. State legislators have introduced roughly two and a half times more bills in 2007 than in 2006. The number of enactments from 2006 (84) has more than doubled to 170 in 2007.”
Governor Pawlenty in 2006 and again in 2007 proposed actions that would address illegal immigration but he is not receiving the support needed from our legislators to make such proposals permanent. The governor asked the legislature to pass an immigration reform package that would address several issues including the role of law enforcement in this debate, penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens, drivers license fraud, identity theft, human smuggling and sanctuary cities, among others.
Taking a look at these issues it is hard to understand why there is not more support in the legislature for the initiatives that Governor Pawlenty has put forth. That anyone would not promote and support common sense solutions for the issues listed above seems almost - if not positively - against the laws of the land, contrary to the safety of Minnesotans statewide and in violation of Federal U S Code 8 section 1324 and 1325.
Take for example the issue of sanctuary policy. Minnesota legislators have twice this year, taken up a vote to end this practice - a city-level policy that restricts law enforcement personnel from investigating an individual’s immigration status. Both times it was defeated by one vote.
Human smuggling in Minnesota is a growing concern that is not finding legislative resolve either. In the past three years 161 arrests have been made involving 158 victims of labor trafficking and 642 victims of sex trafficking.
Identity theft is another crime on the rise largely due to illegal immigration. The crime is often committed by illegal aliens seeking employment or for other uses of identification. Identity theft is a growing problem that can leave the victim’s personal finances in shambles. In 2006 alone, there were 2,872 Minnesotans victimized by identity theft.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety approved the state’s application for ICE’s Agreement of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS). The training of State Troopers has begun to cross deputize troopers as Custom Enforcement Agents with ICE.
Before one should get excited about this new program, bear in mind that Title 19 Authority deals only with customs issues at the borders.
A program known as 287(g) would have many of the same characteristics as the ACCESS program but would take place throughout the state. This program allows legal authority for state and local enforcement personnel to investigate, detain, and arrest aliens on criminal and civil grounds. With the resistance and refusal of some local law enforcement and city administrations to end sanctuary policies it is understandable why this decision must be addressed on a legislative level. In addition, too many times funding on a local level falls. State government must take a look at resources to fund this initiative - which will provide local law enforcement with the proper tools to perform their duties.
The legislature has thus far failed to address these important issues. Useful solutions have been met with roadblocks. Consider contacting your representatives today. Ask them to address the issue of illegal immigration and end the political delays.
Ruthie Hendrycks is the President of Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform and is a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in district 21B.
Sign the Immigration Enforcement Petition at MinnesotaMajority.org