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Immigrant rights activists insist that Gov. Dayton veto ‘Secure Communities’ deportation program

By Brad Sigal |
May 22, 2011
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No More Deportations protest in State Capitol
No More Deportations protest in State Capitol, chanting in front of Gov. Dayton's office (Fight Back! News/Staff)

St. Paul, MN - On May 20, protesters from the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) and the No More Deportations campaign marched through the State Capitol chanting “‘Secure Communities’ divides families - no more deportations!” and “Immigrant workers are under attack - what do we do? Stand up fight back!” At the same time, several other progressive groups also protested noisily inside the capitol as the end of the session looms with unprecedented cuts and attacks on every front.

The immigrant rights protesters marched to Governor Dayton’s office to deliver a statement urging him to veto SF 1143, the Omnibus Data Practices Bill, until Republican Senator Julie Ortman’s amendment mandating participation in the “Secure Communities” deportation program is removed. On May 16, Sen. Ortman inserted the Secure Communities amendment in the bill without any committee hearings, debate or discussion and it quickly passed the Senate. As of the writing of this article, it has not yet been approved by the House.

MIRAc’s statement condemned Sen. Ortman’s move of sneaking the highly controversial Secure Communities deportation program into a larger omnibus bill at the end of the session without debate. The MIRAc statement calls on Gov. Dayton to veto the bill until the deportation program is removed, and says it’s a bad program that’s separating thousands of children from their parents. While the program is supposed to focus on deporting criminals, more than 70% of the people it deports are not convicted of any crime or are only convicted of minor traffic-type violations.

Although the Obama administration’s stated goal is to have Secure Communities implemented in all states by 2013, the tide seems to be turning against the program. Illinois just withdrew from Secure Communities, California is trying to renegotiate their agreement because of ICE’s dishonest conduct in forcing it on them; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other prominent legislators have come out against it; and increasing numbers of cities and counties are passing resolutions saying they don’t want it. The Secure Communities deportation program, along with ICE’s other main deportations programs, 287g and the “Criminal Alien Program” (CAP), have resulted in deportations rising dramatically under the Obama administration to record levels never seen even under President Bush.

Protesters on different issues unite in the capitol

As MIRAc stood outside the governor's office, some disability rights activists who were there with their own protest joined in with the immigrant rights chants. The immigrant rights protesters delivered their letter to governor’s secretary, then marched back through the capitol again. On the second floor of the capitol outside chamber where legislators were meeting, they joined with protesters for LGBT marriage equality who cheered as the immigrant rights protesters joined them. Together they chanted unified chants that applied to both issues: “Equal rights!” “Vote no!” and “Create jobs, not hate!” as the spontaneous solidarity energized both groups.

Inside the House chamber, the legislative session had erupted in chaos a few hours earlier when Republican legislators invited Pastor Bradlee Dean to lead the opening prayer for the day’s session. This was the day they were expected to vote to authorize an anti-gay referendum, so many people from the LGBT community and their allies were already mobilized to protest. Pastor Bradlee Dean launched into a partisan tirade, throwing the session into chaos. Dean was quickly indentified as a pastor who preaches that GLBT people should be put to death. The Republicans, who had been insisting that their marriage referendum proposal is not based on anti-gay prejudice or hate, left the session in disarray to caucus for an hour to figure out how to do damage control. They emerged with a contrite apology. But hours later, LGBT equality protesters were still chanting non-stop outside the chamber as legislators met inside, their powerful voices reverberating throughout the capitol. Their protest went into the night, and they plan to continue protesting non-stop as long as the legislature is in session.

Many union members were also at the capitol pressing legislators to focus on creating jobs, after having rallied earlier in the day. SEIU and other unions are planning a large rally at the Capitol on Saturday, May 21, and the public sector unions AFSCME and MAPE are calling on workers to descend on the capitol May 23 from 9:00 p.m. until midnight to have an overwhelming presence until the last second of the legislative session.

On all issues the demands are similar: telling the Republican-controlled legislature to stop the attacks and cuts, and demanding that Governor Dayton veto the legislature’s attacks and cuts.