~ Minnesota teams with ICE to increase enforcement; better verification for new state employees ~
Saint Paul –Governor Tim Pawlenty today announced executive actions and legislative proposals to counter illegal immigration.
“Legal immigration is an important part of our American heritage, but we need to do more to combat illegal immigration,” Governor Pawlenty said.
Governor Pawlenty announced four measures to be implemented through executive action:
• Minnesota law enforcement officers will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help enforce immigration laws.
• New state employees and contractors doing business with the state will be required to verify citizenship through an Internet-based system operated by the federal government.
• The Department of Public Safety will conduct a review of Minnesota’s driver’s license database to catch duplicate photos and examine them for possible fraud.
• The Department of Public Safety will coordinate law enforcement summits where State Patrol troopers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents and local law enforcement officers will receive training in targeting criminal activity related to illegal immigration.
Governor Pawlenty is also requesting the legislature pass an immigration reform package that includes:
• Prohibition of city “sanctuary” ordinances that prohibit police from inquiring about immigration status.
• Strengthened human trafficking laws.
• Enhanced penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
• Increased penalties for identity theft.
• Establishing the crime of “aggravated forgery” of the underlying documents used to obtain legitimate identity documents.
Administrative Actions to Counter Criminal Activity
ICE ACCESS - Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security
Governor Pawlenty today signed an executive order directing the departments of Public Safety, Corrections, and Commerce to work with ICE on immigration law enforcement in Minnesota. State law enforcement officers will team with ICE through an Agreement of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS).
Minnesota’s participation in ACCESS will include:
• Customs Cross-Designation for a select number of state law enforcement officers to enforce customs law primarily during ICE task force operations. These officers supplement ICE’s mission of combating narcotics smuggling, money laundering, human smuggling and trafficking, and fraud related activities to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations threatening U.S. borders.
• Minnesota state corrections facilities will participate in the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) which identifies criminal aliens who are incarcerated within federal, state and local facilities. CAP works to ensure that criminal aliens are not released into the community by securing a final order of removal prior to the termination of their sentence.
• Minnesota law enforcement officers will participate in federal Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTFs) which target, dismantle and seize illicit proceeds of the criminal organizations that threaten national security and public safety by exploiting the immigration process through identity theft and fraud. ICE partners with other federal agencies, state and local law enforcement in 17 DBFTFs nationwide.
• Asset forfeiture is a highly effective tool for taking the profit out of crime. Minnesota will share in ICE forfeited assets, enhancing the state’s efforts to cooperatively combat crimes through joint operations with ICE.
• Minnesota will participate in Operation Community Shield, a national law enforcement initiative that brings all of ICE’s law enforcement powers to bear in the fight against violent transnational gangs. ICE will work with Minnesota state law enforcement officers to conduct investigations involving narcotics and human smuggling, money laundering and racketeering violations.
• Minnesota will participate in Operation Predator which is designed to identify, investigate, and, deport child predators. ICE routinely coordinates and integrates investigative efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute the principals who are involved in international pedophilic groups or who derive proceeds from commercial child exploitation ventures.
Minnesota is also applying to participate in the following ICE ACCESS program:
• Immigration Cross-Designation for a select number of state law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law as authorized through the Immigration and Nationality Act. Minnesota officers will complete a five week ICE course that will include immigration law, civil rights, intercultural training, public complaint procedures, anti-racial profiling and other training designed to prepare them to properly enforce immigration law. The officers will be authorized and trained to question, detain and arrest suspected illegal immigrants and will augment existing law enforcement efforts.
E-Verification for New State Employees, Contractors, Recipients of Business Incentives
Governor Pawlenty today signed an executive order directing the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations, Department of Administration, and Department of Employment and Economic Development to electronically verify employment eligibility by using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify program. Electronic verification will apply to all new state employees and contractors doing business with the state, and recipients of state business incentives.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. E-Verify virtually eliminates Social Security mismatch letters, improves the accuracy of wage and tax reporting, protects jobs for authorized U.S. workers, and helps U.S. employers maintain a legal workforce. Participation in E-Verify is voluntary and currently free to employers.
Photo Matching of Minnesota Drivers License Database
The Minnesota driver’s license database contains more than 11 million photos as part of individual license records. Governor Pawlenty is directing the Department of Public Safety to use a biometric system to determine if multiple licenses have been applied for by individuals whose facial characteristics appear similar and merit further investigation. The department will use Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration grant funds for the project.
Law Enforcement Summits
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety will co-host a series of training summits for law enforcement across the state with the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These sessions are designed to educate and inform the law enforcement community on the latest trends regarding transnational crime including international gangs, human trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, recognition of counterfeit documents, and immigration law updates.
Legislative Proposals to Increase Immigration Enforcement
“In 2006, I submitted a comprehensive immigration reform package to the legislature and I was pleased to sign into law increased penalties for human trafficking that was part of my proposal. Unfortunately, the legislature did not even hold hearings on much of the rest of that package,” Governor Pawlenty said. “I encourage the legislature to consider these proposals during the 2008 session so that we can better crack down on illegal immigration and related criminal activity while encouraging legal and orderly immigration.”
Prohibit Sanctuary Ordinances
Governor Pawlenty proposes to override existing sanctuary ordinances and prohibit local units of government from restricting the ability of police officers to inquire about immigration status. These ordinances in cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul violate the spirit of federal law and provide protection for illegal behavior in our two largest cities which compromises public safety statewide.
“Our preference is to abolish existing sanctuary ordinances and prevent any future sanctuary ordinances from being enacted,” Governor Pawlenty said. “If the legislature is unwilling to pass a ban on sanctuary ordinances, my next budget will reflect a reduction in local government aid funding of 10% each year for cities that continue to have sanctuary ordinances in place.”
Employer Requirements and Penalties
The Governor proposes legislation to subject employers who knowingly hire, employ or recruit illegal immigrants for employment to a fine of up to $5,000 and license suspension or revocation. Governor Pawlenty is also recommending that employers who voluntarily use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program would be able to use that as evidence that they did not knowingly employ an illegal immigrant.
Business licenses issued by the state would also require the license holder to certify that they do not knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Increased Penalties for Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses personally identifying information, like a Social Security number or driver’s license, to commit fraud or other crimes. The Federal Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse reports 2,872 Minnesotans were victims of identity theft in 2006, ranking Minnesota 33rd in the nation in per capita identity theft reports. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Penalties for identity theft in Minnesota are tied to general theft crimes. The Governor proposes to increase penalties for identity theft to gross misdemeanors and felonies.
Expanding Definition of Aggravated Forgery
Currently it is a crime to defraud someone by altering certain official documents including public records, court orders, or bank accounts. Governor Pawlenty proposes to expand the definition of aggravated forgery to include altering any of the specific state and federal documents listed on the federal I-9 employment eligibility form. These documents would include permanent residency cards, driver’s license, school ID card, voters’ registration card, U.S. military card or draft record, and other documents. Some of these documents, if altered could be used to obtain “legitimate” identity documents.
Strengthening Human Trafficking Laws
According to the 2007 Human Trafficking in Minnesota report to the legislature, approximately 158 victims of labor trafficking and 642 victims of sex trafficking been identified by service providers and nurses across the state over the past three years. Additionally, law enforcement agencies have conducted 351 investigations and made 161 human trafficking arrests over the past three years.
Several recent high profile cases have shown that human trafficking is occurring in Minnesota including a prostitution ring operating from a Minneapolis massage parlor and a St. Louis Park apartment building.
In addition to a statewide task force charged with collecting information on human trafficking and a statewide hotline, Governor Pawlenty is proposing to strengthen Minnesota’s human trafficking laws by broadening the definition of “sex trafficking” to include forced sexual performance or exhibition and establishing “sex trafficking” as a separate and distinct crime. The current definition of sex trafficking includes only prostitution, and not other types of sexual exploitation such as forced stripping or exotic dancing, forced participation in pornography, or forced exhibition.
See more on this topic at the Minnesota Majority website.