Supporters of a campaign to preserve justice for immigrant families came away from a public forum Thursday with less than they had hoped or expected.
A recent increase in Minneapolis and St. Paul police cooperation with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a federal agency that monitors immigration, prompted several local organizations to demand policies protecting immigrant families.
They were also angered over a May 27 raid in a Minneapolis park in which park police targeted a group of young Latinos in search of illegal immigrants — 23 were deported and 3 were jailed.
More than 100 supporters marched from the Augsburg College campus to the Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis; nearly 400 attended a public meeting there, allowing officials to respond to the organization’s demands. Church-based social justice organizations Interfaith Action and the St. Paul Ecumenical Alliance of Congregations sponsored the events.
On May 9, the organizations presented a list of nine demands to Curtis Aljets, director of the INS district that includes Minnesota, to remove what they perceive as barriers Latinos face. These demands included hiring bilingual staff and installing a general information telephone line with a bilingual operator.
Aljets had already responded positively to four of the demands and agreed to meet with the organizations Thursday to negotiate the remaining five. Aljets told the organizations that he was frustrated by the negotiations, however, and sent a representative to the meeting instead.
Supporters hoped for a positive response to all nine demands, but the representative agreed to only one additional demand. Those in attendance told the representative that the compromise was unacceptable.
Despite his attempts to appease the crowd, the representative was told that because the demands would not be met, he is not an ally and was asked to take his seat.
Supporters plan to deliver their demands directly to Aljets’ office today in hopes of further action.
Members of the Minneapolis park board told the crowd of a resolution that the board adopted Wednesday. A representative said park police cannot intentionally seek out illegal immigrants. The park board’s representative also said they will not allow any racially discriminatory actions.
The organizations introduced allies to their campaign. Representatives for Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman addressed the crowd. A representative from the University campus-based Resource Center for the Americas was also recognized.
Several University students participate in the local branch of a national organization called Committees In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. This organization is one of the most ardent supporters of the demonstrators’ efforts.
Angie Anderson, College of Liberal Arts senior, volunteered for the 37-member organization for two years and recently began working as a student intern. She is researching police cooperation with the INS, and said the recent deportations are not justifiable.
“My attitude is that no human being is illegal,” Anderson said.
University Police Chief Joy Rikala said University Police cooperate with requests made by the INS. But the organization’s involvement is not solicited unless the identification process proves an individual to be an illegal immigrant, she said.
However, Rikala said illegal immigrants are not a campus problem, and University Police have not needed to notify the INS of an illegal immigrant for the past two years.