Running on xenophobia

The governor’s immigration proposal nothing more than election year politics.

With the start of 2006, Gov. Tim Pawlenty shot out of the political gate with breakneck speed. Earlier this month, the governor wasted no time tackling the contentious issue of “illegal” immigration. But rather than have an honest discussion regarding the issue, the governor is using immigration as a wedge issue to divide Minnesotans. Pawlenty’s immigration proposal plays off people’s prejudice and ignorance in order to motivate them to vote.

At many of his public appearances this month, Pawlenty linked immigration to crime. As a result, Pawlenty laid out an immigration proposal that would allegedly increase public safety. The proposal calls for the creation of a Minnesota Illegal Enforcement team that would consist of state law enforcers.

The plan would roll back sanctuary laws that prevent state law enforcers from doing the federal responsibility of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

It would be one thing if Minnesota police wanted this responsibility, but they already have enough on their plates without immigration enforcement. The police chiefs of Minneapolis and St. Paul have already come out strongly against the governor’s proposal.

Furthermore, the proposal would do nothing to increase public safety. As it stands, there is cooperation between law enforcement and the immigrant community. This cooperation has led to legitimate law enforcement ranging from drug arrests to terrorism prevention.

Under the governor’s proposal, this trust and cooperation would cease to exist. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that this plan would legitimize racial profiling.

When Pawlenty first laid out his immigration proposal, he said that it was time for a reasoned debate about where the nation and Minnesota stand with respect to “illegal” immigration.

Sadly, Minnesota and the rest of the nation are still waiting for such a debate to begin, which recognizes that the United States is a country of immigrants, and a debate that does not diminish their accomplishments, but recognizes their necessity.