Gov. Pawlenty is back with a series of legislative proposals to crack down on illegal immigration in Minnesota.
Several of them died in the legislative session of 2006, but not because they didn’t enjoy broad support among the DFL legislators.
Dismissing the governor’s suggestions, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said…
“These are warmed-over proposals that couldn’t pass the House of Representatives when it was controlled by the Republicans.”
Pogemiller is wrong about that.
The most controversial one at the time, which is also included in the measures announced on Monday, would do away with local ordinances — primarily in Minneapolis and St. Paul — restricting police officers from asking immigrants about their legal status.
That measure passed the then Republican-controlled House 94-37 in 2006, before it was sent to a committee in the Senate, where it died a quiet death without a hearing. But DFL support for the measure made it one of the most bipartisan bills at the height of partisanship in Minnesota. Thirty-one of the 65 DFLers in the House at the time voted for the measure.
Pawlenty’s proposals also introduce a potential wedge issue in Minnesota’s 2008 campaigns. The immigration issue is among the most important for Republican voters and candidates, as Pawlenty’s choice for president, John McCain, found out. McCain has spent much of the last year trying to repair the damage to his campaign after sponsoring immigration reform legislation in the Senate with Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The immigration issue here, however, is most real in the western part of the state. In Worthington, 200 illegal immigrants were nabbed in a raid on a meatpacking plant. Last month, MPR’s Mark Steil reported the town is still trying to recover.
“Right now we’re still living in the past,” says Pedro Lira, a union official at the Swift plant. “We just try to rebuild this community because (there’s) still no trust at all.”
The issue sparks emotional debate based on often unverifiable claims.
A 2005 report to Gov. Pawlenty from his Department of Administration (See pdf) claimed an illegal immigrant population of between 80,000 and 85,000, and attributed rising costs in many state programs to them. In a 2006 report to the Legislature, however, the legislative auditor questioned the accuracy of the population estimates (See pdf).
Nonetheless, a 2004 MPR poll showed those surveyed think immigrants cost more than they contribute to the state.