Arizona-style immigration law proposal for Minnesota is nothing new

There’s no chance of State Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s Arizona-style immigration bill becoming law in Minnesota anytime soon. There’s no chance it’ll even get a hearing in the remaining days of the legislative session. The only purpose it has is reigniting a debate that had started to die down a little as the nation got distracted by oil spills and incompetent terrorists.

But reignite it, it has.

Today, the police chiefs of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded with this press release:


We believe that mobilizing local police to serve as primary enforcers of federal immigration laws will throw up barriers of mistrust and cause a chilling effect in immigrant communities, impairing our ability to build partnerships and engage in problem-solving that improves the safety of all members of the community. The culture of fear that this bill will instill in immigrant communities will keep victims of crime and people with information about crime from coming forward, and that will endanger all residents.

It is a mistake for our state to try to fix our nation’s immigration system. We urge Minnesota lawmakers and the people of our state to join with us in denouncing HF3830. We believe this bill runs contrary to the values of community policing and problem-solving that the people we serve have rightly demanded and will make our communities less safe.

In reality, this debate about the role of local cops predated — by a lot — Arizona’s new law.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a statewide team to crackdown on illegal immigrants in 2006. It included a proposal that would require police to check immigration status. It got the same reaction from then-Minneapolis police chief William McManus.

“It’s difficult now to get members of those communities to report crime and to work with the police,” said McManus. “So I can see that magnifying exponentially if local police were given the authority of INS officers.”

But not all police chiefs were against the idea.

“We have these second-class issues that, because of illegal immigration and the need for the workforce to get here, it seems like we’ve winked and nodded at some of these issues. and now we need to rein in what we’ve created,” said Worthington police chief Mike Comiskey of Pawlenty’s proposal.

Both St. Paul and Minneapolis have ordinances restricting police officers’ ability to ask about immigration status unless it relates directly to a criminal investigation.

Whatever happened to Pawlenty’s idea? It passed the Minnesota House easily in March 2006 with plenty of DFL support, but never got a vote in the Senate.

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