Candidates for Hennepin County Board gathered for an open forum Sunday where they showcased their radical views on immigration and efforts to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
According to the U.S. Census, Hennepin County is currently the largest of Minnesota’s 87 counties, and encompasses significant portions of Minneapolis, which has one of the highest populations of Somali immigrants and refugees in the country. As such, immigrant policy has come to the forefront of many candidates’ campaigns as they attempt to fight back against the Trump administration, which recently placed Hennepin County on a list of “noncooperative jurisdictions.”
The board has already passed several extreme measures to protect illegal immigrants in the county, including a $275,000 legal defense fund for people facing deportation as well as a new policy that requires ICE officials to identify themselves on county property.
County Commissioner Marion Greene, who represents District 3, touted her work in the passage of the defense fund, but called it a “baby step.”
“It’s a beginning for the board to talk about this important issue,” she said at Sunday’s event, expressing support for a “separation ordinance” that would limit ICE’s authority in the county.
“They are an agency gone rogue. They are a relatively small federal agency, but they seem to be self-governing and self-determining, and they are out there doing work that is not what you or I want them to be doing,” she added.
Irene Fernando, who is running for commissioner of the county’s second district, agreed with Greene’s remarks, but stressed the importance of holding “the current sheriff and their office accountable,” a position that several other candidates promoted.
Current sheriff Rich Stanek is facing criticism for cooperating with ICE and alerting the agency when his deputies book foreign-born inmates, according to The Star Tribune. Peter McLaughlin, who currently represents District 4, wants to have more control over the sheriff’s office, saying he would prefer that the sheriff be an appointed rather than elected position.
“We need to find a way to get control of the sheriff, and that is possible, but it’s going to take a new sheriff to work with us,” he said at Sunday’s forum, noting that the county currently does not “participate with ICE in the departments that we control.”
Sheriff candidate Dave Hutchinson expressed agreement with several of the candidates’ remarks, saying that as sheriff his office would not ask for “country of origin.”
“I don’t care what you look like, who your country of origin is, if you come to our jail, you have committed a crime in our country, and you’re going to, you know, face the consequences,” he said. “But our job is to protect people. Our job is not to enforce federal law.”
During August’s primary election, Hutchinson managed to receive almost 35 percent of the votes, compared to Stanek’s 49 percent, MinnPost reported.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey would likely support many of the policy platforms promoted during Sunday’s forum. Frey, who was elected in 2017, ran on a campaign of defending immigrants from ICE and thwarting “Trump in his mission to destroy our new American communities.”
As The Minnesota Sun previously reported, Minneapolis recently implemented a “municipal ID” program available to all “residents ages 14 and up” regardless of “immigration status, homelessness, or gender identity.” The “municipal identification card” serves as a “recognized ID for interacting with the Minneapolis Police Department,” according to the city’s website.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, now a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate, has been a rare voice of dissent on the Hennepin County Board, advocating for an indefinite end to the state’s participation in the Refugee Resettlement Program.
Sunday’s candidate forum was hosted by Minneapolis religious organization ISAIAH, a “multi-issue organization working on local, city, regional, and statewide and national issues.”
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