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Dueling Sanctuary Bills Show Stark Division On Illegal Immigration

In the first days of the 2019 legislative session, Republican and Democratic legislators have introduced diametrically opposite bills on illegal immigration. Senate Democrats Dibble, Hayden, Franzen, Champion and Torres Ray have offered S.F. 231, which would make Minnesota a “sanctuary state.” The bill bars state and local law enforcement personnel, as well as other state employees, from cooperating in the enforcement of our immigration laws.

For instance, all state personnel would be precluded from “respond[ing] to a hold, notification, or transfer request from federal immigration authorities.” In other states, such refusals have led directly to murders of Americans by illegal immigrants. Similarly, the bill would make it illegal to “give federal immigration authorities access to interview a person in the agent’s custody…”

There is much more. In general, the bill would do everything possible to frustrate the enforcement of immigration laws in the State of Minnesota.

Senate Republicans Utke, Mathews, Koran, Eichorn and Johnson have a different vision. Their bill, S.F. 80, would penalize Minnesota cities that declare themselves lawless “sanctuaries” by denying them certain local government aid under Chapter 477A of the Minnesota Statutes.

Should flouting of immigration laws be deterred, or, rather, turned into official state policy? The difference couldn’t be more stark. What is at issue, ultimately, is the rule of law. Under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, federal law governs in Minnesota. For state officials to try to undermine enforcement of federal law constitutes a repudiation of the rule of law that is, to my knowledge, unprecedented.

Why are the sponsors of the “sanctuary” bill, which reportedly has the support of Governor Walz, eager to flout federal law? Not because their position is popular with voters. In August, the Center’s Thinking Minnesota poll asked 500 Minnesotans about this, along with many other, issues. You can see the results here. This is how Minnesotans responded to a question about sanctuary status:

After I read each one, please tell me if you would SUPPORT or OPPOSE that proposal.
24. Make Minnesota a sanctuary state where federal immigration laws will not be enforced.

Support: 36%
Oppose: 60%

It will be interesting to see whether the majority of Minnesotans who oppose sanctuary state proposals will make themselves heard before the session is over.




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