Immigrant information sharing couldn’t be prohibited

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Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer) said he hopes to help law enforcement do their jobs “without being hampered by city ordinances that conflict with our federal laws.”

His bill, HF358, would prevent local units of government from prohibiting their employees from sharing immigration data with federal authorities.

“Certainly, one thing we can take away from the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, is that communication between the different branches of government is critically important for the security of our citizens, and the lack of communication between jurisdictions results in tragedy,” Barrett said.

Approved by the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee on a split-voice vote that appeared to be along party lines, the bill was sent to the House floor. It has no Senate companion.

“This bill is not anti-immigrant,” Barrett said. “Quite the contrary, this bill supports immigration that happens through the current legal process that our country has had in place for hundreds of years to support immigration to the United States.”

A quartet of DFL members spoke against the bill, saying, among other things, that it removes local control, is an unfunded mandate on local government and could create more burdens on the courts because of lawsuits from civil rights actions for being unfairly profiled.

“This is just a message bill that doesn’t help solve a problem,’ said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester). She said law enforcement already shares information it deems relevant.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) said, in theory, the bill would allow a municipal liquor store employee to inquire about a customer’s immigration status without cause.

“You’re saying any state employee or local unit of government employee, at any time, whether it’s their job or not, can investigate anybody’s immigration status,” she said. “So, if we have people who want to investigate others, even if they’re behaving legally, this bill says you can do it. … I thought we wanted our employees to do the job that we hired them to do, not to go out on a vigilante hunt investigating everyone’s immigration status no matter what they look like.”

“I don’t believe that will happen,” Barrett countered.