Findings and Recommendations on Immigrants and Public Safety in Minnesota
Everyone in Minnesota, including immigrants, has the right to personal safety and to security of their home and belongings. A strong, positive relationship with local law enforcement is crucial to the realization of these rights. The Advocates recently conducted fact-finding throughout Minnesota, interviewing immigrants, community organizers, service providers, and government officials about immigrant experiences with law enforcement and their impact on public safety. Below are our findings and recommendations. Click here for more information on drivers licenses for all, limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE, and building strong relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Finding: Undocumented immigrants and their family members fear that contacting law enforcement as a victim or witness will lead to deportation.
  • Law enforcement agencies and county attorneys should encourage crime reporting by undocumented crime victims by adopting policies that articulate clear standards for exercising charging or prosecutorial discretion when evidence of the victim’s unlawful presence in the United States is uncovered during the course of the investigation or prosecution.
  • Cities, counties, and the State of Minnesota should enact local separation ordinances, rules, or laws to provide clear guidance to public employees, including law enforcement officers, about when to inquire about immigration status.
Finding: Existing protections for undocumented crime victims are not effectively implemented.
  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies should establish clear points of contact for U-visa certification. Points of contact should receive training on the U-visa certification’s purpose and requirements on a regular basis.
  • Minnesota should establish a single statewide point of contact at the Department of Public Safety who can make decisions on certification requests and who can provide training and support to other points of contact statewide.
  • Minnesota should increase the capacity of local domestic violence and sexual assault programs to serve as points of contact, leveraging the relationships between Minnesota’s robust Domestic Violence Coordinated Community Response (DV CCRs), Domestic Assault Response Teams (DARTs), Sexual Assault Multidisciplinary Response Teams/Sexual Assault Response Teams (SMARTs/SARTs), and key criminal justice personnel.
  • Federal, state, and local agencies charged with enforcing civil anti-discrimination laws, labor and employment laws, worksite safety provisions, and housing codes should identify points of contact for U-visa certification and should establish protocols for reviewing certification requests to ensure that victims of discrimination and exploitation who are also victims of serious crimes can be identified and certified for U-visas.
Finding: Undocumented immigrants cannot obtain Minnesota driver’s licenses, undermining public safety and increasing opportunities for discriminatory targeting of people who appear to be immigrants by law enforcement officers.
  • Minnesota should enact legislation or make regulatory changes to decouple driving privileges from immigration status.
Finding: Increased coordination between local law enforcement and federal immigration agencies creates conditions for constitutional violations with no effective remedy.
  • Law enforcement agencies responsible for the enforcement of traffic laws, including municipal police departments, sheriff’s offices, and the Minnesota State Patrol, should establish clear protocols for involving federal immigration agencies at the point of traffic stops. Federal immigration officers should never be called to provide interpretation assistance.
  • To avoid practices by individual officers that result in racial profiling, law enforcement agencies should provide clear guidance about when patrol officers should ask passengers in vehicles to provide identification.
  • Information should be available, in an accessible and understandable format, to everyone booked into county jails in Minnesota about their right to remain silent and the possible consequences of voluntary interviews with federal immigration officials.
  • Free immigration legal services should be accessible to every person booked into county jails.
  • Municipal and county jails should develop clear guidelines for when to honor ICE detainer requests.
  • Prior to turning an individual who has not been criminally charged over to ICE pursuant to an informal detainer request, the case should be reviewed by the city or county attorney to ensure that the initial stop or arrest meets the standards sufficient to justify criminal charges, including review to ensure that the stop was not based on race or national origin.
  • Prior to turning an individual who has been criminally charged over to ICE pursuant to an informal detainer request, the case should be reviewed by the city or county attorney to ensure that deportation does not interfere either with the state’s interest in pursuing criminal charges against the individual or with the individual’s right to defend themselves against the charges. The city or county attorney should not authorize the individual’s release to ICE without moving to dismiss the pending criminal charges against the individual.
  • Minnesota should enact legislation that allows law enforcement to honor ICE detainer requests only in certain clearly defined circumstances to eliminate the opportunity to engage in immigration profiling through traffic stops.
Finding: Immigrant communities lack trust in local law enforcement.
  • Everyday encounters between immigrant and refugee community members and police officers affect the community’s understanding of, and level of trust in, the public safety system. Police officers should use routine traffic stops and other low-level encounters as an opportunity to explain why a stop was made or the police were called, what laws were broken, and how to avoid future violations.
  • Police departments should invest in community liaisons who can build relationships with community members. Outreach strategies might include: regular community orientation sessions that focus on frequent violations identified by police and on questions and problems identified by the community; citizen academies and cadet programs; and active participation in community events.