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Minnesota's New Balancing Act: Protecting Human Rights and National Security on the State Level

Summary of Remarks

Senator Mee Moua addressed the balance between protecting human rights and national security at the state level and provided her perspective on post September 11th anti-terrorist policies and the potential impact they have on immigrants residing in Minnesota.  Senator Moua pointed out that the September 11th attacks and the Washington D.C. area sniper attacks both heightened public awareness of homeland security and prompted a sense of urgency to protect the state against acts of terrorism.  Senator Moua was concerned that the state of Minnesota may be trying to pass legislation that would exploit the vulnerability of Minnesotans while stigmatizing and inciting fear in foreign nationals.


Senator Moua suggested that the most important legislation should be concerned with securing Minnesota's borders, including water ports of entry and airports.  She also expressed the importance of protecting possible terrorist targets, such as the Capitol, Mall of America, Metrodome and any other area where large populations may congregate.  She also stressed that coordinating the efforts of highway patrol, local law officials, fire fighters and ambulance units, as well as funding proper training for these groups, was vital to protecting the state against further attacks.


Senator Moua addressed the ongoing debate about whether status check information should be issued on all drivers' licenses belonging to foreign nationals.  The proposed bill would demand that these licenses include an extra expiration date coinciding with that of the immigrant's VISA expiration, as well as specific color coding easily identifying a foreign national to anyone viewing the license.  Senator Moua argued that this bill would only make foreigners feel unsafe, creating assumptions among native Minnesotans that immigrants are associated with terrorists.  Furthermore, she said terrorists have the resources to obtain fraudulent licenses, therefore rendering the bill obsolete.  Senator Moua is concerned that such a law exploits the vulnerability of Minnesotans while labeling all foreign nationals as potential terrorists.  Senator Moua closed with saying that this law is a symbol of racism and is an unnecessary policy allowing for the possible illegal detention of an immigrant for an undisclosed period of time.  Though the bill has yet to pass, at least 10,000 licenses with status checks have already been issued throughout the state of Minnesota based on a Department of Public Safety regulation.  The constitutionality of that regulation is currently being litigated in the courts.



Mee Moua came to the United States in 1978 speaking no English, and has become the first Hmong American elected to state office when she won a special election to the Minnesota State Senate on January 29, 2002. She claimed the District 67 seat formerly held by Randy Kelly, who was elected Mayor of Saint Paul last fall. As a Hmong refugee, Mee and her family were forced to leave her home country of Laos to escape the terror of the secret war in Laos, a conflict that spiraled out from the Vietnam War. The Hmong, an ethnic hill tribe in Laos, became allies of the U.S. because of their knowledge of the terrain and guerilla warfare tactics. More than 30,000 Hmong people died in the war while fighting along side U.S. military forces. As a result of the outcome of the war, thousands of Hmong fled Laos to find freedom. Vang Thao and Chao Tao Moua, Mee's parents, led their family across the Mekong River in 1975 to reach the refugee camps in Thailand where they lived for the next four years. At age five, Mee witnessed the risks her people would take to reach freedom and gain independence. It was during these formative years that Mee was influenced to dedicate herself to improving the socio-economic and political situation of all those who live on the periphery of society. In 1978, the Moua family arrived in America filled with a sense of hope and opportunity, as well as uncertainty. After 24 years of hard work and determination, Mee Moua is an articulate, dynamic and innovative legal advocate and community activist with an impressive education. She graduated from Brown University in 1992, earned her Master's degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, and graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1997. She was admitted to the Minnesota State Bar later that year and joined the law firm of Leonard, Street & Deinard. She is now married to Yee Chang, a Saint Paul small business owner, and is the mother of Chase and Sheng Chang. They live on the East Side of Saint Paul. In her new role as Senator, she serves on the Tax Committee, the Crime Prevention Committee and is Vice-chair of the Transportation Committee. class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"


Related Materials:


Michael Khoo, MPR, First Battle at Capitol is Over Terrorism, Jan 7, 2003.


Elizabeth Stawicki, MPR, Court of Appeals Overturns Immigrant License Rule, March 11, 2003.


Tom Scheck, MPR, Senate Committee Defeats Driver's License Bill, March 26, 2003.


S.F. No. 87, as introduced: 83rd Legislative Session (2003-2004).

H.F No. 1, 2nd Engrossment: 83rd Legislative Session (2003-2004).