Cops, church group oppose GOP’s Arizona-style immigration bill


The Arizona-style anti-immigration bill introduced yesterday by state Republicans isn’t winning over two constituencies: cops and churches. As City Pages reports, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington issued a joint statement flatly opposing the measure. “The culture of fear that this bill will instill in immigrant communities… will endanger all residents,” they wrote. And the nonprofit refugee-relief group Church World Service issued a statement calling the bill a “poorly conceived and ill-informed… unfunded mandate.”

Harrington and Dolan expressed concern over putting cops on the “front line” of immigration issues. An excerpt from their statement:

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.

Rev. John Guttermann, Church World Service’s Minnesota immigration field director, says the measure, the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” (H.F. 3830), arises from “an exaggerated sense of fear and a simplistic conception of both the problems of immigration and the solutions needed.”

“It will not make Minnesotans safer,” he said. He continued, echoing the Twin Cities’ police chiefs’ concerns:

“Minnesota H. F. 3830 imposes an unfunded mandate on local governments. If enacted, police will be pulled from the street to do what is a Federal responsibility. There will not be a public safety benefit. Government agencies, police, and the courts will experience significant demand increases for their limited resources at a time of reduced budgets. Immigrants, documented and undocumented alike will, if H. F. 3830 is enacted, become hesitant to report or become involved in reporting crimes; this will hurt all communities.”

He also cited a 2009 Humphrey Institute study (PDF) that tallies both the benefits of immigrants to the state and the economic harm caused by an enforcement-only policy when dealing with undocumented immigrants: “If undocumented immigrants were removed from Minnesota’s economy, the state would lose over 24,000 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in personal income. This is a long-term estimate and it assumes that the economy would have had time to adjust to the changes,” the report states.