Governor Tim Pawlenty Monday unveiled his newest plan to slow illegal immigration into Minnesota, which includes a requirement that new state workers verify their citizenship.
He ordered state agencies to take immediate steps to curb the use of forged documents by undocumented immigrants.
"We can't have a system, a secure system of identity and drivers licenses and other things, that is rampant with fraud," the Governor said flanked by law enforcement officers and Republican lawmakers.
The plan features computerized drivers license photo cross checks to guard against multiple persons sharing the same legal names and identities.
"Either in terms of the current drivers license, former drivers license version, social security cards that turn out to be fraudulent there's an industry as you probably know which exploits immigrants and others."
State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, a Democrat from Minneapolis, criticized the Governor for politicizing a complex issue.
"This is the same proposal from two years ago and once again it's an election year," Torres Ray told reporters at the Capitol, "This is an election cycle and I am very disappointed that our Governor has chosen to use this issue as a way to further his political agenda."
She said she and other lawmakers in touch with the immigrant communities in Minnesota have been invited to a meeting with the Governor Wednesday, and she's surprised Pawlenty shared his plan with the media prior to that discussion.
"We take immigration issue very seriously. We are working with mayors, superintendents, hospitals and other major players to address these very same problems."
For those who suggest the Governor is playing the immigration card to score points, the Governor said it's simply not true.
"I think anybody who would suggest that illegal immigration is not a real concern in the United States isn't a very candid observer of what's taking place."
The Governor signed an order directing all state agencies to work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as I.C.E., to enforce immigration laws. This act would clarify that State Troopers have the power and obligation to detain drivers of questionable immigration status.
Some cities, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, do not routinely arrest persons solely for being in the United States without permission. If undocumented immigrants are arrested for another crime they are turned over to federal authorities when their local criminal case is complete.
Pawlenty said he'll ask the legislature to penalize cities that enact so-called sanctuary laws. He's also seeking to have state officers take special training from Immigrations and Customs so that they could eventually be deputized to arrest and hold undocumented immigrants they encounter.
"He's asking state agencies to do the job of the federal government," Torres Ray said, "That is not the work of our law enforcement. He's asking local communities to take on the burden of immigration enforcement at the same time he's already cutting aid to those cities."
Saint Paul Police Chief John Harrington has testified in the past that cooperation from potential witnesses and crime victims in certain areas of the city would be harder to come by if those individuals thought local police were working on behalf of federal immigration authorities.
He also testified that police do work hand in hand with I.C.E. to combat human trafficking and other major criminal cases involving persons crossing the nation's borders.
Other executive actions, which can be enforced without any action by lawmakers, includes a requirement that all new state verify citizenship or legal residency. Their names would be checked against a computerized federal database known as E-Verify.
When asked if any undocumented immigrants have been discovered in the ranks of state employees, Pawlenty answered that it was more a matter of the state setting a good example.
Private companies looking to defend themselves against hiring illegal immigrants could voluntarily use the E-Verify system as a means of proving they tried to check on their applicants.
The Governor would also require any contractors working for the state to verify their United States citizenship or legal immigration status. That will also be imposed as a condition for companies receiving state subsidies and incentives, he said, such as JobZ.
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