The following appeared in The Star Tribune on June 26, 2018. The original can be found here.
By Miguel Otárola
More than two dozen social justice organizations and immigrant rights groups are demanding that Hennepin and Ramsey counties stop enforcement work for federal immigration officials.
The groups, called the Decriminalizing Communities Coalition, announced their campaign during a news conference held Tuesday outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
"It is time to abolish [U.S.] Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the national level, and for our state and county governments to stop participating in immigration enforcement," said Rachel English, a community organizer for Jewish Community Action (JCA).
The coalition is made up of 26 organizations including JCA, ACLU of Minnesota, Minneapolis NAACP, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and the state chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).
English said the groups had talked about taking joint action for months.
"Communities are being attacked on all fronts right now," she said. "We're only going to be strong if we come together."
Coalition leaders listed several demands aimed at Hennepin and Ramsey County commissioners, sheriffs, attorneys and judges. Those demands include ending the practice of notifying ICE of a detainee's release date, doubling funding for Hennepin County's recently approved legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation, and establishing rules limiting ICE enforcement at county jails and courthouses.
County jails that house immigration detainees for ICE saw their inmate numbers jump following President Donald Trump's election in 2016, according to records obtained by the Star Tribune. Ramsey County's jail ended the practice earlier this year, with Sheriff Jack Serier saying it was too costly and burdensome to do so.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office has informed ICE about foreign-born inmates it has booked since 2011. Records show that ICE agents were frustrated with the county's lack of cooperation even as Sheriff Rich Stanek remained adamant about keeping undocumented immigrants who broke the law off the streets.
Jana Kooren, public education and communications director for ACLU of Minnesota, called on county attorneys to support diversion programs and "stop over-criminalizing immigrants."
"Particularly during this era of President Donald Trump and Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, the nation needs local prosecutors who will stand up to unjust federal initiatives and build a smarter and fairer criminal justice system," she said.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it had narrowly upheld Trump's travel ban affecting several mostly Muslim nations. The Rev. James Wilson, priest-in-charge at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Paul and a Liberian immigrant, looked up at the overcast sky and declared it "a dark day in the United States."
"We see ourselves as one community ... demanding that all be treated with respect, compassion and justice," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, CAIR-MN held a news conference with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison denouncing the high court ruling. The organization planned a demonstration for 6 p.m. Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.