Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Minnesota Advocates Welcomes Senate Rejection of Effort to Overturn Immigrant Crime Victim Protections
5/24/2007 2:30 PM

Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) today failed on their effort to introduce an amendment to the Senate bill that would require an end to community policing strategies, known as separation ordinances.  Separation ordinances have been adopted in many communities with large immigrant populations, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and provide a critical tool to ensure public safety and to the ability of victims and witnesses of crimes to seek the protection of law enforcement.  Local governments and law enforcement agencies around the country have decided that it is a matter of public health and safety not to ask about immigration status when people report crimes, or have been the victims of domestic abuse, or go to the hospital seeking emergency medical care.  The proposed amendment takes away the right of local governments and law enforcement agencies to decide how best to ensure public safety in their own communities.

Mischaracterized as “sanctuary” ordinances by their opponents, this community policing strategy simply clarifies that public safety officials may not question a person about immigration status, nor question, arrest or detain any person for violations of federal civil immigration laws except when immigration status is an element of the crime.  Separation ordinances do not hamper the ability of local law enforcement to work with the Department of Homeland Security on criminal investigations.  Such ordinances partially alleviate the fear that immigrant crime victims have of law enforcement due to perceived cooperation with immigration officials.

“The defeated amendment would have threatened public safety by keeping witnesses and victims in the shadows, and threaten the refugee and immigrant community’s basic right to seek the protection of the police or emergency services from public hospitals,” says Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights Executive Director Robin Phillips.  Prohibition of such ordinances as proposed in Senate Amendment 1158 to the immigration reform bill S. 1348 would have an acute impact on crime victims, including battered women in immigrant and refugee communities.  Immigrant communities need communication and outreach by police and criminal justice authorities to fight violent crime and build the trust required to achieve safe and peaceful communities.

A similar effort last year at the Minnesota State Legislature to overturn separation ordinances was defeated when law enforcement officers, sheriff’s associations, immigrant advocates, domestic violence prevention advocates, and immigrants spoke out in strong opposition to the proposed legislation.