Defending immigrants in rural Minnesota

Hutchinson

Photo by Vivid Image, published under Creative Commons license

You expect a hometown newspaper to be a civic booster, pointing with pride to the good things in its city. So it’s no surprise when the Hutchinson Leader points to recent  numbers showing that Hutchinson’s crime rate is ”No. 36 lowest among 84 Minnesota communities with populations of 10,000 or more.”

The surprise—and it’s a good one—comes when the editorial page goes way beyond hometown boosterism to challenge hometown prejudices with a careful analysis of data. (Yes: data. Facts. Numbers. Good editorials are more than opinion.)

For a little context, recall that Hutchinson was among several small Minnesota cities considering a “welcoming resolution” last year. Unlike St. Cloud, Willmar, and St. John’s, Hutchinson’s city council rejected the welcoming city resolution by a 3-2 vote.

Editorial: Low crime in Hutch, even lower in Glencoe (Hutchinson Leader, 2/21/18) took up that debate again:

“[S]ome people, including those who participated in our city’s recent debate over a “welcoming resolution,” have suggested an influx of immigrants will cause a city’s crime rate to rise.

“Hutchinson, with a 96-percent white population, has relatively few recent immigrants. We also have a very low poverty rate: 6.6 percent, according to the state demographer’s office.”

The contention of poverty and immigration playing a role in crime rates caused us to look at the demographics of other Minnesota communities. The correlation, from what we could tell, seems weak in southwest Minnesota.”

After looking at Willmar, Worthington, and Marshall, the editorial concluded with Montevideo and Glencoe:

[W]hat really knocked our socks off were the exceedingly low crime rates for two other smaller, southwest Minnesota cities:

“Montevideo: Ninth lowest among all Minnesota cities; 18.8 percent poverty rate; 0.6 percent African Americans; 8.4 percent Hispanic or Latino; and

“Glencoe: Fifth lowest among all cities; 23.7 percent poverty rate; 0.6 percent African Americans; 14.8 percent Hispanic or Latino.”

Forum discusses immigrant fears (Park Rapids Enterprise, 2/21/18) In another article from rural Minnesota, the Park Rapids Enterprise reports on a recent immigration forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. Police relations with immigrants were a main focus of the discussion, with forum participants raising questions about police practices of calling in federal immigration authorities on traffic stops, sometimes saying they need the Border Patrol to interpret for them. Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes told the newspaper after the forum:

“If our officers are dealing with an individual that doesn’t have any I.D. or doesn’t speak English and provides us with no information whatsoever, we may contact a border patrol agent out of Bemidji for assistance. We then decide if the suspect is getting arrested and going to our jail or if we are simply releasing them. If the Border Patrol agent then has reason to take the person into their custody, that’s not something we get involved with at all.  our officers are dealing with an individual that doesn’t have any I.D. or doesn’t speak English and provides us with no information whatsoever, we may contact a border patrol agent out of Bemidji for assistance. We then decide if the suspect is getting arrested and going to our jail or if we are simply releasing them. If the Border Patrol agent then has reason to take the person into their custody, that’s not something we get involved with at all. …”

Park Rapids Police Chief Jeff Appel said his agency has access to Language Line for interpreters in any language.

And in immigration news beyond Minnesota

Trump takes in Australian refugees he never wanted ahead of prime minister’s visit (McClatchy News, 2/21/18)

“ A year ago, President Donald Trump told Australia’s prime minister that he didn’t want his refugees, saying they would become terrorists.

“That was then, this is now. A steady group of refugees from the Middle East and South Asia previously housed in Australian detention camps have been quietly arriving in the United States over the last several weeks and resettled in American communities.” 

Trump wants to pit black Americans against Latino immigrants. Don’t fall for it. (Vox, 2/21/18)

“For several years, “We are all immigrants” has been a rallying cry for immigration reform. A well-intentioned slogan, it gestures toward a supposed shared history of migration among Americans.

“Unfortunately, the slogan either willfully or unconsciously ignores two important facts: the forced removal and mass murder of indigenous people, and the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade. The creation of a false collective national-origin narrative by some immigrant rights activists fosters an unnecessary tension between recent immigrants and US-born marginalized communities.

“So too, from the other direction, does brewing resentment stemming from the belief that undocumented immigrants take jobs from “hard-working Americans” — including African Americans.“

Under Trump, Border Patrol Steps Up Searches Far From the Border (New York Times, 2/21/18)

“Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration….

“Current federal immigration law does not require the government to obtain a warrant before searching people and their property at ports of entry. Once away from a land or maritime border, but still within what the Justice Department has defined as a “reasonable distance” of 100 miles, officers can search people who are suspected of immigration violations and smuggling drugs.” 

Trump administration sued over detention of immigrant children (Reuters, 2/20/18)

“The lead plaintiff in the case is a 17-year-old boy, identified in the lawsuit as L.V.M. The boy came to the United States from El Salvador with his mother and brother in 2016 fleeing gang violence, and the family has applied for asylum, according to the NYCLU.

“According to the lawsuit, L.V.M. was taken from his home on Long Island by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July 2017 and detained, based on police reports that he was involved with the MS-13 gang, which the NYCLU said were false.

“L.V.M. remains in ORR custody some seven months later, even though an immigration judge and a local ORR supervisor have determined that he poses no threat, the lawsuit said.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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