ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton won’t revive a directive from his Republican predecessor requiring the state to participate in enforcing federal immigration law, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Spokeswoman Katie Tinucci said the Democratic governor decided against continuing or revamping the 2008 executive order from former Gov. Tim Pawlenty because it wasn’t necessary. The directive, which expired last week, had required state cooperation with federal authorities in areas such as customs enforcement and fraudulent documents.
Dayton said cooperation and coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement against criminals, including illegal immigrants, will continue without a gubernatorial order in effect.
“I think it was basically a political stunt on his part,” Dayton said, referring to the former governor.
Pawlenty, now exploring a presidential campaign, made headlines when he announced the executive order and related immigration proposals as part of a get-tough approach toward illegal immigration three years ago. He said at the time that the state needed to do more to enforce immigration laws.
The order required state agencies for public safety, corrections and commerce to work with federal officials by cross-designating state agents to enforce immigration and customs law, combing the prison population to identify illegal immigrants and participating in efforts to uncover document fraud, gang activity and child predators.
Rep. Tony Cornish, who serves as police chief in Lake Crystal and heads a House public safety panel, said Dayton’s lack of action sends a clear signal.
“As soon as you take emphasis away from something, it lets everybody in the state know that you don’t care, and I think that’s why we have a problem with immigration,” said Cornish, R-Good Thunder.
Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman said the state’s relationship with federal authorities is better than it’s been in years.
“We didn’t need the executive order to continue the partnerships and relationships we had going with our federal partners,” she said.
Pawlenty’s order led to cross-designation immigration law enforcement training for a state trooper and an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Dohman said. The trooper works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on fraudulent documents, while the BCA agent works on human trafficking and related issues. Dohman said she has no plans to send more state agents for the training, but the expiration of the executive order wouldn’t prevent her from doing so.
The state also has cancelled more than 6,000 driver’s licenses after reviewing its database of photos for potentially fraudulent duplicates and ruling out cases with other explanations, said Public Safety Department spokesman Doug Neville. The review could be done by the end of the year.
Tinucci said Dayton consulted with Dohman, legal counsel and advocates for immigrants as he weighed whether to keep all or parts of the order.
Among those he spoke with was state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, who praised Dayton for dropping the directive. She said immigrant communities saw it as a political move by Pawlenty as he built a national profile.
“We’re still questioning why Pawlenty did that. We think that it was for — you know, he was planning to run for president,” she said.
Dohman, the former Maple Grove police chief, said local law enforcement agencies cooperate with any federal agency that needs help. She said local work with ICE tends to focus on investigations, not sweeps or raids.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have ordinances that prevent local police from asking about immigration status. Cornish said he plans to hold a hearing on a bill that would prohibit cities from limiting immigration inquiries by law and information sharing with federal authorities, even though he acknowledged Dayton would likely veto the legislation.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)