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  • Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Worthington, Minnesota (added in 2006 following ICE raid at the Swift meat packing plant)

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    Against Illegal Immigration

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    For Illegal Immigration

    U.S. policy shift gives illegal immigrants hope of staying
    By PAUL McENROE, Star Tribune, November 18, 2011

    More than 1,700 illegal immigrants facing deportation proceedings in Minnesota have new hope of remaining in the United States, the result of a federal order issued on Thursday that directs immigration authorities to focus on the most dangerous individuals rather than those with minor offenses.

    Illegal immigrants considered nonthreatening -- those suspected of document violations or other civil offenses -- will see their deportation proceedings temporarily halted under the directive from the Obama administration. Instead, agents and prosecutors have been directed to remove the most dangerous illegal immigrants, as outlined in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum originally issued last summer. "It’s a big deal,” said John Keller, director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. "What you are seeing is the follow-through and commitment by DHS -- in a tangible way -- of prioritizing which people will be put into deportation proceedings.”

    Of 4,000 new deportation cases filed at the U.S. Immigration Court in Bloomington in fiscal 2011, about 1,700 were "non-detainees” -- immigrants suspected of being here illegally but who were not detained because they had no felony record, according to court records.

    Illegal immigrants who will receive low priority in the deportation process include military veterans or relatives of veterans, children who were brought to the United States at a young age and are now nearing adulthood, and victims of abuse and other serious crimes. People in those categories who are already in the deportation process will see their cases be temporarily put on hold, Keller said.

    "DHS acknowledged in a June memo that they were not getting the biggest bang for the buck with all the money they were spending by going after these kinds of people,” Keller said.

    Clogged courts

    The new deportation strategy is designed, in part, to relieve a huge backlog in federal immigration courts, which are so overwhelmed that there is now about an 18-month wait for a full court hearing, Keller said. In fiscal 2010, for example, Minnesota immigration courts had 2,300 "non-detainees” caught in similar deportation proceedings, and many of those cases are still open and awaiting resolution.

    Nationally, 272 immigration judges -- members of the Department of Justice -- were assigned with completing more than 353,000 matters last year in cases that are often extremely complicated and time-consuming.

    In each of the last three years, close to 400,000 illegal immigrants have been deported from the United States.

    In Minnesota, there are three immigration judges -- each with a daunting daily calendar that considers newly detained individuals, those seeking asylum and criminals held in prisons who are being scheduled years ahead for eventual deportation back to their home countries.

    Individual hearings on the master calendar list are quick, usually lasting about 15 minutes maximum, and most are continued for weeks and weeks, with the result that individuals can languish in the system for months without having their cases resolved.

    Beginning early next month, DHS and the Department of Justice will launch a six-week pilot program in Denver and Baltimore to test-run the process for reviewing cases currently pending in immigration courts.

    Keller urged caution for those with questions about their immigration status.

    "This is not amnesty,” he said of the new directive. "It is a temporary stoppage of deportation proceedings for those who are now considered to be officially low-priorities for prosecution”

    Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745
    Worthington, Minn., was dying. Then, enter the immigrants.
    By Tad Vezner for the Pioneer Press 09/18/2011

    WORTHINGTON, Minn. - Worthington is a small town with a big secret.

    The farm county seat has comparably low crime and enviously low unemployment. Instead of tumbleweeds, its downtown strip has plenty of traffic and only two vacant storefronts. The biggest dance club and sole bakery have new owners.

    What's not a secret is that more than a third of the town's residents - 35 percent, by the last census count - are Hispanic. City officials still think that's an undercount. Even so, it's by far the highest percentage of any city in Minnesota - a state that's seen a 75 percent growth in Hispanics over the past decade, more than any other ethnic group.

    The trend didn't happen in an instant: 30 years ago, many feared the southwest Minnesota town would become a ghost town. Instead immigrants flooded in - and stayed. One weekend last month, the local St. Mary's Catholic Church hosted 14 baptisms in one standing. All Hispanic.

    Mention work in Worthington and you'll hear of the pork plant. Formerly owned by Swift Co., the giant complex next to Interstate 90 that processes 20,000 hogs a day was taken over by Sao Paulo, Brazil-based JBS in 2007. About 30 percent of its 2,400 employees are Hispanic, company officials said.

    In 2006, immigration officials conducted a high-profile raid of the plant, arresting 230 workers.

    But illegal workers remain a part of Worthington.

    "It has been easy to find a job," said one illegal worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But the only jobs are hard jobs."

    "I don't go to factories where I know they ask for papers. Farms, you don't need papers; just a card from the Mexican Consulate" or a fake Social Security number, which you "just make up."

    "If they ask for your card, that means that they don't want you. If they need people, they just say it's OK."

    If you ever need to provide documentation, it's easy enough to forge something passable for roughly $180, the worker added.

    "I don't think those things (the raids) had one bit of an impact," Detective Flynn said.
    Legislative Inaction on Minnesota’s Illegal Immigration article by By Ruthie Hendrycks
    Olga Franco, 24, convicted of driving the van in the Cottonwood school bus crash that killed four students, will spend 150 months in jail.
    By Pam Louwagie, Star Tribune, October 8, 2008

    Olga Franco, 24, convicted of driving the van in the Cottonwood school bus crash that killed four students, will spend 12 1/2 years in prison.

    She can expect to see her time cut by one-third to about 100 months -- 8 years and 4 months -- for good behavior, officials said.

    Franco sat stone-faced when she heard the sentence.
    Legislative Inaction on Minnesota’s Illegal Immigration article by By Ruthie Hendrycks
    On immigration, bluster but little action - After a splashy announcement, a proposed immigration crackdown gained zero momentum at the Legislature this session.
    By JEAN HOPFENSPERGER, Star Tribune, May 24, 2008

    When the 2008 Legislature adjourned last week, one order of business was noticeably absent from its list of accomplishments -- an immigration crackdown.

    Tougher penalties for identity theft. A ban on so-called "sanctuary cities." New penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. They were among proposals declared a priority by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in January, and all went nowhere.

    "We had time to debate whether dogs should be allowed to eat in cafes. We had time to debate hockey as the state sport. But we didn't have time to stop identity theft or human trafficking," said an irritated House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
    Minnesota activists support Iowa immigrants
    By Julia Opoti, TC Daily Planet , May 19, 2008

    When news broke that hundreds of immigrants had been detained on charges of working illegally at a meat plant in Iowa, immigrant activists were mostly concerned that workers’ rights were being violated.

    On May 12, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the Agriprocessers meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting more than 300 workers. Fearing a similar fate, many immigrants sought refuge in churches in Postville. Many immigrant families have been grossly affected as some of the detainees were the sole bread winners of their families.
    Pawlenty ups the ante on illegal immigration
    By Tom Scheck for Minnesota Public Radio, May 1, 2008

    As immigrant groups march to the Capitol, Governor Pawlenty has reiterated his criticism of DFLers in the Legislature for failing to act on illegal immigration issues. Here's the release:

    ~ Governor Pawlenty statement regarding the failure of DFLers in the Minnesota legislature to consider proposals to combat illegal immigration ~

    Saint Paul - According to news reports, thousands of immigrants and activists are holding rallies and protests across the country today, including in Saint Paul, demanding immigration reform.

    In January, Governor Pawlenty announced executive actions and legislative proposals to counter illegal immigration. Actions taken by the Governor included executive orders to enhance cooperation regarding immigration enforcement between state and federal officials and to require that state employees, contractors doing business with the state and recipients of state grants electronically verify employment eligibility.

    The Governor also proposed legislative measures to prohibit city "sanctuary" ordinances that prevent police from inquiring about immigration status, strengthened human trafficking laws, increased penalties for identify theft, enhanced penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and establishing the crime of aggravated forgery regarding underlying documents used to obtain identity documents.

    Nearly four months into the 2008 session, the DFL-controlled legislature has refused to even hold a hearing regarding the Governor's immigration reform proposals. The following is a statement from Governor Pawlenty regarding the failure of DFLers in the Minnesota legislature to consider proposals to combat illegal immigration.

    Minivan on I-35 had heavy load: 15 illegal immigrants - Lakeville police found that the 7-passenger Windstar had been modified to handle the weight of workers who were headed to Minneapolis for construction jobs.
    By JIM ADAMS, Star Tribune, April 30, 2008

    When Lakeville police stopped a minivan going 81 miles an hour at 2:30 a.m. on Interstate 35 last week, they found that it was packed with 15 illegal immigrants who had been traveling for a week, most likely from Arizona.

    The van was littered with food wrappers and missing the middle seat, Capt. Kevin Manias said Wednesday. The occupants, including one woman, said they were headed to Minneapolis for construction jobs. One rider said the driver charged them $130 each for the trip, Manias said.

    The Ford Windstar, which normally seats seven, had been specially modified with stronger springs and suspension parts to accommodate the additional weight.

    All 15, including the driver, are expected to be deported to Mexico, said Tim Counts, spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He said such smuggling incidents are common across the country.
    Case stemming from Willmar immigration arrests gets smaller
    By AMY FORLITI for the AP, April 24, 2008

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal lawsuit from last year's immigration raid in Willmar was whittled down Wednesday when a judge dismissed counts against the U.S. government and other authorities.

    U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery cited jurisdictional reasons for her decision. She also dismissed 14 plaintiffs from the case and told the remaining plaintiffs to re-file their complaint to clearly describe how the rights of each person were violated.

    More than 50 people, including U.S. citizens, illegal immigrants and children, were arrested in the raid a year ago. The plaintiffs claimed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other authorities broke into homes and randomly stopped Hispanics.

    The lawsuit made several allegations, including that plaintiffs were subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, deprived of due process of law, and denied the right to attorneys.

    Montgomery dismissed claims against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other officials on jurisdictional grounds. She also dismissed claims against the police chiefs in Willmar and Atwater and the Kandiyohi County Sheriff because their agencies participated at the direction of federal authorities.
    Still no love for Seifert's sanctuary city amendment
    by Michael Marchio, Minnesota Public Radio, April 22, 2008

    As I mentioned yesterday, Minority Leader Marty Seifert again proposed what is quickly becoming the most popular amendment of the year, to strip Local Government Aid from "Sanctuary Cities." Give the guy credit for persistence - its been proposed probably a dozen times by now, including twice under different drafting yesterday, and every time but the first, by my count, there's been no vote taken because of germaneness rulings. The first time, it failed by only a hair, a 66-67 vote, so I can see why he might try to shake a few more votes loose.
    A year later, Willmar still feels effects of immigration raids
    by Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio, April 10, 2008

    One year ago, federal immigration agents began a four-day, house-to-house operation in Willmar, Minn. Federal officers detained 49 illegal immigrants. Nearly half had prior criminal records.

    The after-effects of that operation are still playing out in the courts, and in the community.

    St. Cloud, Minn. — Some people claim the problem with last year's immigration raid was the way it was conducted.

    During the four-day Willmar operation, immigration attorneys took affidavits from dozens of people caught up in the raid.

    Gloria Contreras Edin, executive director of Centro Legal, a St. Paul-based non-profit law firm, reads the story of one woman who claims four immigration agents entered her home without consent.
    Attorney to appeal Elzahabi immigration fraud conviction
    AP, March 31, 2008

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The attorney for a Minneapolis man arrested in a 2004 terrorism investigation says he will appeal his client's conviction on charges of possessing fraudulent immigration documents.

    Paul Engh filed a notice of appeal on Monday on behalf of his client, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi (elz-ah-HAH'-bee).

    The 44-year-old Elzahabi was arrested in May 2004 and convicted by a federal jury last August. He was sentenced in March to the nearly four years he has already served and was released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

    Elzahabi is Lebanese. Court documents say he is currently in an ICE holding facility in El Paso, Texas.
    Bus crash suspect left Guatemala seeking better life for family
    AP, March 30, 2008

    MARSHALL, Minn.—Two years before the fatal school crash she's charged with causing, Olga Franco made a decision: She would leave her native Guatemala for the United States, seeking a better life for her family. "Those of us who have never gone, we sometimes think life is easier there in the U.S.," Franco's father, Miguel Angel Franco-Ortiz, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "But those that go say it's hard."

    For a story in Sunday's edition, the newspaper interviewed Franco's parents in Guatemala, as well as an aunt in Marshall and her attorney. Franco herself has not spoken with the media.

    Franco, 24, is charged in Lyon Count District Court with four counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the Feb. 19 crash near Cottonwood, in which four students aged 9 to 13 were killed and 15 other people were injured. She is also facing federal identity theft charges. Her next court appearance is April 21.

    Relatives recalled that everyone in Franco's hillside village in Guatemala cried the day she left. She promised her parents she would return home within three years with money for the family, who lived in a home made up of two bedrooms and a kitchen. Franco shared the space with her parents and an invalid uncle.
    Handcuffed by sanctuary law
    Rick Chambers, Willmar, West Central Tribune, March 24, 2008

    The recent tragic bus accident in Cottonwood should have served as a wakeup call to our legislators that action needs to be taken regarding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants in Minnesota. Reports after the accident indicated the woman who caused the crash was here illegally and had been stopped previously for driving without a license. Why she was not identified, detained and deported then we’ll never know.

    This situation should have spotlighted so-called sanctuary clauses and ordinances which are an attempt to prevent local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with the federal government in the identification of illegal immigrants. Despite the fact that sanctuary laws violate the Immigration and Reform Act of 1996, the liberals of this state, especially in Minneapolis and St. Paul, think they can thumb their noses at the federal regulations.
    Immigration issues subject of think-off
    The Daily Journal, March 24, 2008

    Calling all philosophists: The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center wants to hear your thoughts on immigration for this year’s Great American Think-Off.

    This year’s question asks, “Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?” Participants must answer the question in essays of 750 words or less. A panel of judges will invite four finalists to debate in New York Mills June 14.
    Immigration expert to speak at WSU
    Winona Daily News, March 22, 2008

    A University of Minnesota immigration expert will speak Tuesday at Winona State University.

    The American Democracy Project welcomes Ryan Allen, assistant professor of community and economic development at the Humphrey Institute of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. The lecture is titled “Immigration in the Heartland: Latinos in Minnesota.”

    It’s planned for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Somsen Auditorium and is open to the public.

    A question-and-answer session will follow the lecture, said Matt Bosworth, a WSU professor who is organizing the event.

    Allen’s expertise focuses on the community and economic development processes of immigrants in the United States.

    The American Democracy Project includes roughly 200 schools that are trying to engage young people in political and civic issues.
    Minnesota sanctuary cities for illegal aliens
    By Chuck Fuller, for Pine and Lakes, March 19, 2008

    Did you know that Minneapolis and St. Paul have sanctuary policies that prevent their police officers from asking about immigration status or enforcing our immigration laws? Did you know that these sanctuary policies are allowing illegal aliens to freely enjoy your benefits without fear of deportation?

    Did you know that such policies cause huge criminal, legal, financial problems that degrade your life as legitimate Minnesotans?

    The recent school bus crash in Cottonwood, should have been a grim wake-up call to our legislators to reverse this irresponsible and misguided mind-set.

    And did you know that on March 13, Rep. Brita Sailer, again in lock step with the metro DFL who she serves better than her electorate in House District 2B, helped defeat a motion that would have allowed an up-or-down vote on HF3010, a bill that would prevent Minnesota cities from harboring illegal aliens?

    This scurrilous manipulation is an attempt to stall HF 3010 by allowing the bill to die in committee. It is an expected knee jerk reaction to see the DFL power structure defend Rep. Sailer, with almost simultaneous letters to the editor.

    If this support of illegal aliens bothers you, you might wish to call her office at (651) 296-4265 or (800) 920-5867.
    Tempers flare on House Floor over Immigrant Sanctuary Cities
    By John Croman, for KARE 11 News, March 13, 2008

    An effort to force a hearing on a controversial immigration bill led to an outburst of emotion Thursday on the floor of the Minnesota House. At one point Minority Leader Marty Seifert, a Marshall Republican, called the mayors of Minneapolis and Saint Paul "political hacks."

    The remarks came after Representative Paul Kohls, a Republican from Victoria, asked lawmakers to support a bill outlawing so-called "immigrant sanctuary cities" in Minnesota.

    Kohls complained he hadn't been able to get a hearing on the bill, and the deadline for first hearings on new measures is approaching. At the time of Seifert's comments, Kohls was attempting to force the bill directly to the floor. It's a maneuver that allows a lawmaker to bypass the committee process.

    Seifert accused DFL lawmakers of stifling debate on the issue, and then attacked the notion that big city police chiefs oppose the idea.
    Minnesotans Seek Solutions to ''Dysfunctional Immigration Policy'' - Immigration Issues Discussed at The Minneapolis Foundation's ''Minnesota Meeting''
    By: Kristine Migely for Minneapolis Foundation, March 4, 2008

    MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesotans can't find solutions to confusing immigration policies unless they learn to listen to the voices of all concerned, according to members of a panel at the Minnesota Meeting on Monday, March 3. The purpose of the gathering of 600 convened by the Minneapolis Foundation at the Minneapolis Convention Center -- and 75 community leaders attending satellite meetings in Rochester, St. Cloud and Worthington -- was to encourage community dialogue on what has become a difficult and divisive issue in Minnesota and nationally.

    At the center of the discussion was what panelist Dr. Bruce Corrie, professor of economics at Concordia University in St. Paul, called a "dysfunctional immigration policy" in the U.S.
    Illegal Immigration Enforcement Bill Sparks Debate
    By: Stacy Lilienthal for KAAL TV, March 4, 2008

    (KAAL) - An immigration bill debated in the legislature is drawing a lot of attention.

    House Minority Leader Marty Seifert wants the state to punish cities that don't check immigration status by taking away state funding.

    That could have some costly consequences.

    "That’s like punishing the Minnesota government because the federal government spent too much on the war in Iraq,” says Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig.

    “It's affecting us in Austin, Albert Lea, and just about every town that I know of in Minnesota,” says Paul Westrum with the Coalition for Immigration Reduction.

    Westrum is the founder of 32 area coalitions for immigration reduction organizations.

    He and members of his group have been to the state and federal capitols pushing for bills to stop illegal immigration.
    Officials arrest 36 for immigration violations in Minnesota and S.D.
    By: Paul Walsh for the Star and Tribune, March 3, 2008

    Dozens of "fugitive aliens and immigration violators" were arrested in southwestern Minnesota and South Dakota in a three-day sweep last week, federal officials announced Monday.

    Guatemalans accounted for 31 of the 36 people apprehended in Worthington and Pipestone, Minn., and across the border in Sioux Falls, S.D. Two are from Mexico, two are from El Salvador and one is from Honduras.
    House nixes immigration-related measure
    By: Pat Doyle for the Star and Tribune, March 3, 2008

    By the narrowest of margins, the Minnesota House defeated a proposal Monday to withhold state government aid from cities that prohibit police from checking the immigration status of people. The proposal by Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, was offered as an amendment to the House tax bill and rejected 67 to 66. There is another proposal in the House that would prohibit cities from barring officials from cooperating with federal agents on immigration investigations
    Immigration Operation Impacts Everybody
    by Ben Dunsmoor for KELOland, February 28, 2008

    When Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up in Worthington Wednesday, it wasn't emotional for only the Hispanic community, because when one of these raids happens the impact isn't limited to the illegal immigrants.

    Maria Parga has lived legally in Worthington for 15 years and works hard to make a better life for her family.

    Worthington store owner Maria Parga says, "When I was in Mexico my situation was hard. I worked the whole day and I didn't even have a car, even a house, how can I live like that."
    Immigration agents targeting individuals in Worthington operation
    AP, February 28, 2008

    WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) - Immigration agents are conducting an enforcement action in Worthington, but officials with the agency say targeted to individuals and not like the roundup more than a year ago of workers at the Swift meatpacking plant.

    A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says more information will be available after the operation concludes.

    ICE arrested 225 individuals during a 4-day, six-state investigation that ended on Monday. States involved were Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri.
    Identity of van driver determined in fatal bus crash
    By CURT BROWN, Star Tribune, February 25, 2008

    U.S. immigration officials say today they've determined the identity of the 24-year-old woman who drove a van into a school bus, killing four children last week in southwestern Minnesota. The driver has been identified as Olga Marina Franco from Guatemala.

    U.S. immigration officials say today they've determined the identity of the 24-year-old woman who drove a van into a school bus, killing four children last week in southwestern Minnesota.

    The driver has been identified as Olga Marina Franco and she's from Guatemala, according to Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Chicago.

    Franco has been charged with four counts of criminal vehicular homicide stemming from the Feb. 19 crash near Cottonwood. Witnesses say she blew through a stop sign, jumped over some railroad tracks and hit the rear of the bus, which tipped over and collided with a pickup truck.

    The woman initially said her name was Alianiss Nunez Morales, but ICE officials said she was using a fake name and was here illegally.

    (click link for remainder of story)
    Agents: Woman in schoolbus crash is from Guatemala
    BY JOHN BREWER, St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 25, 2008

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement has determined the identity of the woman charged with killing four students and injuring 12 others in the bus crash in Cottonwood last Tuesday.

    Olga Marina Franco, 24, is from Guatemala, according to ICE.

    Franco originally said that was 23-year-old Alianiss Nunez Morales.

    Working with the Minnesota State Patrol, ICE first interviewed van driver Franco on Thursday — the day she was arrested — and developed probable cause that she was in the United States illegally and that she had not been using her true identity.

    During the interview, Franco told ICE that she was from Mexico. A fingerprint check drew no match, meaning she had no prior contact with immigration officials.
    Mystery surrounds van driver in Cottonwood bus crash
    By CHAO XIONG and CURT BROWN, Star Tribune, February 23, 2008

    MARSHALL, MINN. - The van driver who witnesses say plowed into a school bus, killing four children, appeared in court Friday to face vehicular homicide charges. But authorities still aren't sure who she is, saying she's in the country illegally and using a phony name.

    Sitting in a wheelchair with a broken leg Friday in Lyon County District Court, the woman said her name was Alianiss Nunez Morales. She said she'd been working in a Cottonwood, Minn., cabinet shop and living with her boyfriend in a trailer in nearby Minneota until they broke up Tuesday, the day of the crash.

    But federal immigration investigator Claude Arnold said Morales is not the woman's name, and she is not revealing her identity. He said that she is here illegally, probably from Mexico.
    Who is the other Alianiss Nunez Morales?
    by Laura Yuen and Ambar Espinoza for Minnesota Public Radio, February 22, 2008

    St. Paul, Minn. — A public records search turned up a 23-year-old woman named Alianiss Nunez Morales in Chester, Connecticut. The records indicate her Social Security card was issued in Puerto Rico.

    Alianiss is not a common name. Two Spanish linguistics professors contacted for this story say they've never heard of it. They say it could be a name created by parents.
    Woman, 23, likely to be charged in Cottonwood bus crash today - Alianiss Nunez Morales, 23, was booked into the Lyon County jail in Marshall on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation. Morales' van struck the bus, which rolled onto a pickup. Four students were killed.
    By CHAO XIONG, CURT BROWN and ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune, February 22, 2008

    MARSHALL, MINN. - The 23-year-old woman whose van collided with a school bus was arrested Thursday afternoon and booked on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation in connection with the crash that killed four children near Cottonwood, Minn.

    Authorities will hold a 10 a.m. news conference today to discuss the arrest of Alianiss Nunez Morales, 23, of Minneota. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance today in Lyon County District Court.

    The Minnesota State Patrol's investigation of the crash continued Thursday, and Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes said much of the paperwork from the investigation was already on his desk.

    (click link for remainder of story)
    Immigration Agents Investigate Morales
    By Perry Groten for KELOland TV, February 22, 2008

    Federal agents say Alianiss Morales had been living in Minnesota illegally, using a fake ID. She could eventually be deported, but not before she faces the vehicular homicide charges.

    Today in court, the Lyon County attorney said federal immigration agents have determined that the real Alianiss Morales is from Puerto Rico where agents questioned her grandparents. They told them the woman arrested for causing the Cottonwood bus crash is not their granddaughter.
    Crash raises issues of fake IDs, immigration - There's a brisk trade in false documents in the state, spurring some legislators to call for crackdowns.
    By JEAN HOPFENSPERGER, Star Tribune, February 22, 2008

    Questions about Alianiss Nunez Morales’ identity don’t surprise Minnesotans who work with immigrants, saying it points to a flourishing statewide trade in false documents.

    It also points to the need to tighten sanctions for using fake documents and crack down on illegal immigration, argue some political leaders.

    “To be honest, people can get false documents quickly and easily,” said Sgt. Kevin Flynn, of the Worthington Police Department, which has experience with dubious documents. “It’s basically just word of mouth. People can go out and buy a birth certificate and a Social Security card, and then ... obtain other forms of ID.”
    Community rallies to support family, friends of bus crash victims
    By MARY LYNN SMITH and ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune, February 20, 2008

    Classes in the small Lakeview School District are canceled today, a day after four students were killed when their school bus was broadsided by a van on a rural highway in southwestern Minnesota. Teachers, grief and support counselors and clergy will be at the school to offer support.

    Four students headed home from school were killed Tuesday afternoon on a rural highway in southwestern Minnesota when a school bus was broadsided by a van in a crash that also involved a pickup truck.

    Fourteen other people, all but two of them children, were taken to hospitals in Marshall and Granite Falls, Minn.; four of the 14 were transferred to hospitals in Sioux Falls, S.D. By late Tuesday, nine people remained hospitalized. One was in critical condition and the rest were in stable condition with fractures, cuts and bruises, hospital and law enforcement authorities said.
    Man admits arranging fraudulent marriages - Le Guo Wu, 31, of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to recruiting Minnesotans to marry Chinese nationals. Investigators broke the case by monitoring his cell phone and e-mail.
    By DAN BROWNING, Star Tribune, February 20, 2008

    A 31-year-old Philadelphia man admitted Wednesday that he helped recruit dozens of people in Minnesota and other states to enter fraudulent marriages with Chinese nationals.

    Le Guo Wu pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Paul to one count of conspiracy in what immigration officials say is an ongoing investigation of an international marriage fraud ring.

    Court records say since at least 2004, Wu has offered Americans between $13,000 and $25,000 to marry Chinese citizens so they could enter the United States and obtain residency papers.

    So far, authorities have identified more than 70 suspect immigration petitions tied to the marriage fraud ring, according to records filed in the case.
    Marchers protest policy on immigrants
    By MARY JANE SMETANKA, Star Tribune, February 16, 2008

    Chanting and jumping up and down in the cold, almost 200 demonstrators marched down Lake Street in Minneapolis Saturday to protest immigration policies that they say are unfair and to urge politicians to stop using immigrants as scapegoats in an election year.
    National Guard troops heading south to secure border
    AP, February 15, 2008

    WILLMAR, Minn. - Some Army National Guard troops from Minnesota are heading south for a few weeks.

    Seventy-five soldiers are slated to leave the Willmar Armory early Saturday to help with a federal initiative to secure the U.S.-Mexican border against illegal immigrants. They'll be deployed for two weeks.
    Pawlenty unveils immigration proposals
    BY RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER, St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 7, 2008

    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today unveiled a host of executive actions and legislative proposals on immigration.
    Is Pawlenty's plan for immigration aimed at a VP slot?
    By JEAN HOPFENSPERGER, Star Tribune, January 7, 2008

    Gov. Tim Pawlenty waded back into the immigration debate Monday, reaffirming his concern with an issue that is heating up his party's presidential nomination contest and drawing complaints that his motives may be political.
    Pawlenty unveils immigration proposals
    BY RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER, St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 7, 2008

    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today unveiled a host of executive actions and legislative proposals on immigration.
    Illegal immigration emerges as key issue in First District race
    By Mark Brunswick, Star Tribune, December 4, 2007

    At the behest of an advocacy group, Republican candidate Dick Day went to the U.S.-Mexican border, and others may follow.
    Rural America's 'Sanctuary' Cities
    By Laura Tillman, October 17, 2007

    Jackson, Wyoming, and Worthington, Minnesota, are two rural "sanctuary cities." Both depend on immigrant workers to make their economies go.
    Coleman, Rybak and police chiefs defend laws limiting 'status' checks
    Pioneer Press

    The mayors and police chiefs of St. Paul and Minneapolis have come out staunchly against a plan announced by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to roll back "sanctuary laws" that restrict immigration enforcement by local police.

    St. Paul passed such an ordinance in May 2004, and Pawlenty suggested Tuesday that the state scrap such policies as part of an initiative to crack down on illegal immigration and immigrants.

    "This is redbaiting, except … it's 'brownbaiting' this time," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who took office Tuesday. "If there is a legitimate law enforcement issue, like … a counterfeit document production center somewhere in the state of Minnesota, then let's go after that. … But when the governor stands up at a press conference and then flies around the state of Minnesota, in an election year, he's using fear to try and get re-elected."

    Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also ascribed political motives to the proposal.

    "I feel strongly about protecting people's rights and safety, but so far my experience over the past few years is this is only discussed when there's an election around the corner," Rybak said.

    The governor, however, called his proposals "reasonable."

    "I think that if you went to most Minnesotans and said, 'We have cities that are prohibiting their police officers from asking about immigration status, not requiring it but having the discretion to ask,' most Minnesotans would agree with my perspective that law enforcement should at least be given the option to inquire about immigration status," Pawlenty said in response.

    Police in the state's two largest cities aren't prohibited from investigating immigration issues as part of other criminal investigations, but they aren't supposed to routinely question people about their status.

    Coleman went so far as to say the St. Paul Police Department would not start doing so, regardless of what the Legislature or the governor did.

    "I don't think the governor has the authority to tell me how to run the police department, and this is bad public safety policy that he's talking about," Coleman said. "When you start using your police department to carry out this kind of political agenda, it interferes with legitimate law enforcement."

    The two mayors joined St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington and Minneapolis Police Chief William McManus in elaborating on that point in a joint statement Thursday. They said routine immigration status checks would interfere with efforts to establish trust among immigrants and refugees, trust that might prove fruitful for investigating everything from domestic assaults to terrorism.

    Harrington suggested that it would be difficult to add immigration enforcement to his department's priorities, regardless of who wanted to do so.

    "To think that we have some free time, some discretionary time, that we're not already running call to call, to do immigration enforcement that's not related to serious criminal activity in the city is just ludicrous," Harrington said in an interview. "My cops right now are … stacking calls; they're having a hard time giving the kind of attention that we want them to give to serious violent crimes in the city right now. So to add an additional burden on top of that is just not practical."

    John Keller, acting executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, suggested immigration enforcement might undercut efforts to fight other crime.

    "The governor's statements scare the heck out of people, and it's sending real hard-earned efforts to gain trust in the wrong direction," Keller said. "You have to be able to trust the police to protect you."

    In many cases, he said, immigrants come from countries where the police are feared, Keller said. Where there's mistrust, victims don't get help and witnesses don't come forward, he added.

    Dan Hoxworth, director of Neighborhood House, a St. Paul social service agency that often serves Latino and other immigrants, even expressed reservations about plans for his building to host a police substation for the city's West Side if officers were going to check citizenship papers.

    But there's a fair amount of uneasiness, as well, about illegal immigration in the United States.

    A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week found that 80 percent of Americans believe government isn't doing enough to stem illegal immigration. The poll also found that a majority, 56 percent, believe that illegal immigrants have done more to hurt the country than to help it.

    Emily Gurnon, Bill Salisbury and Beth Silver contributed to this report.

    Tim Nelson can be reached at or 651-292-1159.

    Source:Pioneer Press, Jan. 06, 2006