A bill is moving through the Minnesota House that would reverse a “separation ordinance” that prohibits local police from enforcing federal immigration law. Separation ordinances require that local authorities “do not ask about immigration status unless it relates to the crime.”
Immigration law is and should remain out of local policeâÄôs jurisdiction. The separation ordinance does not, however, prohibit communication between law enforcement agencies; it only prevents local officials from having to enforce a federal law. Minneapolis and St. Paul should be able to keep their separation ordinances in place as long as information-sharing between local and federal authorities is not compromised.
The division of enforcement duties allows local authorities to focus on relevant local crime instead of complex immigration procedures local police are not sufficiently educated about. Ideally, any pertinent information can be passed on to federal authorities who are better equipped to deal with immigration issues.
The separation ordinance allows immigrant populations to better trust local authorities, making these groups more likely to communicate with police about local crime. This increased dialogue, proponents of the original ordinance argue, has led to decreased crime rates in the Twin Cities. Indeed, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said that crime has dropped since his cityâÄôs separation ordinance went into effect in 2004.
Separation ordinances, when used effectively, can be good for local safety. The Legislature should allow Minneapolis and St. Paul to keep their ordinances as long as they do not hamper communication between levels of law enforcement.