Roseville passes resolution on police immigration status inquiries

Residents and others hoped city would do more

The Roseville City Council passed a resolution at its Aug. 28 meeting stating that city police officers shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless it’s directly related to a criminal investigation.

It was already Roseville Police Department policy that officers do not ask about immigration status, in order to foster trust between the community and police, but now the policy can only be changed by a council vote.

The move came despite a lengthy public comment period at the meeting in which residents and others urged the council to pass a “separation ordinance.”

Such an ordinance would essentially state the same stance of not inquiring about immigration status, laying out other policies related to the city’s role in immigration enforcement, making all the policies a part of city code. Minneapolis and St. Paul recently passed similar ordinances.

Those who spoke argued the ordinance would send a clear message from the city in support of people who are immigrants or racial minorities, who, many said, are living in tense times since last year’s presidential election and because of the Trump administration’s stepped-up immigration enforcement.

“For the first time of me living here, this is the year where I felt like I needed to have my passport in my car every time I drive, even though I became a citizen almost eight years ago,” Etienne Djevi, a member of the city Human Rights, Inclusion and Engagement Commission, who is originally from West Africa, told the council.

Djevi said a separation ordinance would signify council members taking a stand, giving immigrant people “that peace of mind that your leaders care about you.”

Though members of the public had spoken at previous council meetings against a separation ordinance or the idea of Roseville becoming a “sanctuary city,” as well as in private communications with council members, the more-than 20 people who spoke Aug. 28 were all in favor of an ordinance.

Despite this, the four council members present that night — council member Bob Willmus wasn’t there — split a vote asking staff to put together a draft separation ordinance to be reviewed at a special meeting. 

Council member Tammy McGehee and Mayor Dan Roe were in favor of drafting an ordinance. Council members Jason Etten and Lisa Laliberte were not.

Instead, Etten made a motion to pass the city resolution, putting in place the policy of police officers not inquiring about immigration status, and included language requiring any future city councils to vote on changing the policy.

The resolution passed 3-0, with McGehee abstaining from the vote.

 

Different actions, 

same effect?

The discussion of the city taking up a separation ordinance dates to two back-to-back Imagine Roseville community meetings centered on immigration policy held in early May.

The first Imagine Roseville event was held in fall 2016 as a chance to have a community conversation about issues raised by the police killing of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights that summer. Later meetings discussed other community issues.

At the May events, Roseville police Chief Rick Mathwig explained to attendees the police department’s policy was already not to inquire about immigration status. City Manager Pat Trudgeon said the city risked losing an insignificant amount of federal funding if it were to adopt a separation ordinance — at the time the Trump administration had threatened to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Residents who attended the events made clear they thought the city should adopt such an ordinance, though in the days after the meetings it was unclear how much council support there was for such a move, save for McGehee, who was fully supportive.

The council received a report on the May Imagine Roseville events at the Aug. 28 meeting, with Trudgeon at the front end of the discussion recommending it not enact a separation ordinance, because of the police department policy already in place.

“If we take any additional action such as declaring Roseville a sanctuary city or adopting a separation ordinance, it will not result in any measurable difference in how the City of Roseville currently treats its residents and visitors or how it interacts with them,” Trudgeon said.

“While the status may garner a lot of publicity it will have a limited practical effect on the city’s actions or procedures, since we have a very limited role in immigration policy and enforcement.”

Though Laliberte worried about the unintended consequences of passing a separation ordinance — the potential loss of federal or state funding — Etten picked up Trudgeon’s line of thought.

Leaning on a comment he’d received from an immigration attorney, Etten said, “Declaring a separation ordinance sends a false message of safety.”

“We can’t make people safe,” he said, “we can’t change the federal policy that isn’t ours.”

McGehee said she agreed with Etten on some level, while sharply disagreeing with him on another.

“I don’t think that having a separation ordinance makes everyone feel like they’re safe here and everything’s going to be fine,” she said. “We’re not morons and neither are these other people.”

Despite the city’s limited power to affect federal immigration policy, McGehee said it could still make a strong statement with a separation ordinance.

“That doesn’t mean we have to turn our back on those members of our community that are suffering during these terrible times of hate.”

 

Fraught decisions

This year the city council has dealt with other issues regarding marginalized people, at times wrestling with decisions that others have seen as clear-cut.

At its April 24 meeting, the council voted to combine the city’s Human Rights and Community Engagement commissions, nearly omitting the phrase “human rights” from the name of the combined commission.

The city’s former Human Rights Commission was nearly 50 years old; the Community Engagement Commission was formed in 2014 and was fraught with dysfunction, having only three of a possible seven members at the time of the merger.

Only after impassioned comments from some 20 community members did the council unanimously vote to retain human rights in the name, creating the Human Rights, Inclusion and Engagement Commission.

At its July 24 meeting, the council adopted a statement expanding upon Roseville’s commitment to being “welcoming and inclusive,” spelling out its condemnation of discrimination against people of different genders, races and immigration statuses, among other factors.

The week prior, McGehee had written a letter to the editor that appeared in this paper calling for such a statement.

Etten added the statement to the meeting’s agenda at the beginning of the meeting and it was passed 3-0; Laliberte and McGehee were not at the meeting. 

Afterward, Etten said adopting the statement was the right thing to do and that it had been on the minds of many in the community.

 

Different perceptions

As some who spoke in favor of a separation ordinance Aug. 28 left the meeting in disappointment, Roe predicted that night that the city’s actions would be processed in a number of ways.

“Whatever we do will be interpreted differently by different people and there will be consequences to that,” he said.

At least one Roseville resident took to Twitter Aug. 28, referencing the meeting recap that is posted on the Roseville city website following each city council meeting. The resident highlighted the council’s formalization of the police department policy.

He tweeted: “Last night Roseville became a ‘sanctuary suburb.’”

WHAT THE POLICY SAYS:

The Roseville City Council passed a resolution Aug. 28 formalizing policy regarding immigration status inquiries for the Roseville Police Department. Any future city councils would need to hold a vote to change it. The policy, in full, reads:

“Federal law does not authorize the Roseville Police Department to enforce federal immigration laws. As such, employees shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless it is directly related to a criminal investigation.” 

“Members of the department are authorized to assist [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] when it is related to scene safety and/or the safety of ICE employees as they perform their duties. Members of the department are authorized to cooperate with a task force involving ICE agents as long as the focus of the task force is not immigration enforcement.”

“Members of the department will cooperate with ICE as specifically mandated by federal and state laws.”

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813


 

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