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.