While the 2009 spring session for the Minnesota Legislature just ended amidst a controversial decision by Governor Pawlenty to balance the budget by himself, many important immigration bills were debated in this past session. Admirably, the Land of 10,000 Lakes voted to prohibit state compliance with the Real ID Act, a catch-all piece of 2006 federal legislation which enabled the Department of Homeland Security to waive any and all laws in the construction of our border wall and would have required a national id card to be carried by everyone in the U.S., a thinly cloaked anti-immigrant measure. This bill, HF 988, will protect Minnesota’s growing immigrant community in this particularly vulnerable time of economic turmoil from an intrusive federal law.
SF 1514 was also passed on May 21 by the Minnesota legislature, recognizing the crime of sex trafficking for the first time with harsh penalties of up to 25 years in jail while also granting victims a means of legal recourse regardless of their citizenship status.
Also important were the bills rejected by Minnesota’s lawmakers, many of which were targeted specifically at the immigrant community. SF 505, which would have required the removal of all head coverings in order to procure state ids, was defeated, along with SF 144, which would have made government employees liable if they knew of an undocumented immigrant and failed to report it. SF 577 was also defeated in its efforts to make English the official language (interestingly enough, just before the turn of the 20th century the same debates were being had about making Norwegian the official state language).
A couple of important federal bills might also impact Minnesota. AgJOBS, reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Diane Feinstein (S. 1038) and in the House by Representatives Howard Berman and Adam Putnam (H.R. 2414), would allow immigrant farm workers the opportunity to earn the legal right to permanently stay in this country through continuing work in agriculture while also amending the current H2A guest worker program to grant growers a safer and more stable workforce. (Souza, Christine. California Farm Bureau Federation). Similarly, the Visa Recapture Bill (or the “Reuniting Families Act”) introduced by Senators Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer would go a long way in reforming the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act. First, Visas unused due to lack of governmnet action dating back to 1992 would be added to the current year limits, and prospectively any surplus would added to the new year’s allowable visa limits. Second, spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents would be able to obtain visas (whereas now only citizens can really petition for immediate relatives), and it changes the age of minor children from 18 to 21. Third, the overally level of family-sponsored immigrant visas would be expanded to 480,000/year, along with raising the number of employment-based visas to 140,000/year.
Advocates with the project Familias Unidas, along with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, have worked to include Minneapolis on this collaborative’s national tour to 20 cities. In its attempt to encourage support for comprehensive immigration reform this year, Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Keith Ellison will hold a community forum at the Incarnation Church in Minneapolis on June 14 at 2:30. This multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual event is aimed at getting Obama to follow through on his promise earlier this year to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2009. The petition they will be signing at this event is as follows – feel free to print it off and send it to our President yourself:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
My name is _____________________________________, and I am petitioning on behalf of my
______________________ who has no realistic options to gain legal status under our current
President Obama, as a result of our broken immigration system, my loved one is at risk of being
deported/ has been deported: causing the destruction and separation of our family.
This has caused us all to live with constant anxiety and fear about the future of our family.
As you eloquently stated in your inauguration speech,
“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation:
the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their
full measure of happiness.”
On behalf of my family and the millions of other families like mine, I urge you to stop the
misguided raids and deportations that are tearing our marriages, our childrens’ lives, and
our communities apart.
We are hopeful that you will indeed fulfill your campaign promise to work with Congress to move quickly to enact just and humane comprehensive immigration reform that includes
family reunification, faster due process, a reasonable path to citizenship, and workers’ protection.
We are hopeful that you will indeed fulfill your campaign promise to work tirelessly to bring forth the change necessary to ensure that all people have an opportunity to dream, to live, and to pursue their full measure of happiness.
We are hopeful that you will indeed fulfill your campaign promise of Si Se Puede; Yes We Can!
__________________________________________________________ (City, State, Zip Code)