Ellison Community Forum Widens the Divide Between Community and Law Enforcement

“Become citizens so you can vote Trump away,” was the message at DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison’s Community Forum on Immigration Tuesday night.

DNC Deputy Chair and MN Rep. Keith Ellison seen talking to attendees before community forum (Preya Samsundar/Alpha News)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined DNC Deputy Chair and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and a host of panelist to discuss immigration with members of the community.

Approximately 100 people arrived at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, a church in Minneapolis where the panelist discussed current issues facing immigrant communities and ways for them to protect themselves in the days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Ellison spoke of legislation he has proposed in Congress to reverse executive actions handed down by Trump’s White House.

Hodges reiterated a long-standing statement to attendees, “they have to go through me,” in reference to immigration policies being handed down from Washington. Calling the federal government “hostile,” she reiterated her promise to support the immigrant community within Minneapolis.

Hodges talked about a joint effort with Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau to not ask those arrested by Minneapolis Police Officers their immigration status or origin of birth. This later sparked a question from the audience about those detained by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, noting Sheriff Rich Stanek’s willingness to work with immigration officials.

As reported by Alpha News, both Stanek and Minneapolis City Attorney Mike Freeman called on the Department of Justice to issue an apology after Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed Stanek’s office on a list of law enforcement departments that do not comply with ICE waivers. Stanek reiterated during a press conference in March that it’s not the job of his officers to do the work of federal officers. He notifies ICE when the individuals requested via the waiver will be released and then it’s up to immigration officials to do their due diligence.

However, Stanek was blasted by the panelists who denounced him for his willingness to work with ICE agents and his cooperation to notify them when a prisoner will be released. Immigration Attorney Danielle Robinson Briand, a panelist told attendees, “raise your voice and raise concerns about collaborations between local and federal law enforcement.”

When one Somali attendee asked the Ellison about an FBI investigation at the U of M, Ellison was quick to remind her that the FBI does have a right to investigate a crime, though making the statement with a reminder that he did not have all the information.

Panelists also discussed the concerns of potential Somali deportations. Pressure from the federal government to deport 4,000 Somali individuals is mounting. According to attorneys on the panel, the government of Somalia was unwilling to accept deportees, so 4,000 Somali individuals set to return were released under supervision. Breitbart reports that 300 Somali individuals living in the U.S. will be deported within the next few months.

This news comes as Minnesota sees a rise in H1B visa applications by employers,  which has risen 75 percent since 2012 according to the Star Tribune.   

Briand gave attendees information to protect themselves from what she described as an “era of anti-immigration.”

Briand told the group, “I’m here to encourage everyone that we have a strong Constitution. It protects you even if you don’t have legal lawful status. We all know immigration agents are not your friends, they are your adversaries.”

She advised the group to exercise their rights to remain silent, don’t voluntarily give out information, make sure they have a warrant with a judge’s signature, and gave this final piece of advice, “We need more people to become citizens so they can vote and lead us in a different direction and we need to participate in marches.”

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.