Golden Valley reconsiders law enforcement policies regarding immigrants

Golden Valley City Council is reconsidering the Human Rights Commission’s recommendation to adopt some of the American Civil Liberties Union model policies related to law enforcement and immigration.
The council is expected to discuss the recommendation Sept. 21.
On Aug. 8, approximately 30 individuals attended the council, manager meeting to show support of the commission’s recommendation.
City staff did not suggest approving the recommendations.
The commission recommended Golden Valley adopt policies one and two of the nine model policies.
The first policy states, “Officials shall require a judicial warrant prior to detaining an individual or in any manner prolonging the detention of an individual at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection.
The second policy states, “Officials shall not arrest, detain or transport an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or other administrative document issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection without a judicial warrant.”
The commission also reviewed Golden Valley Police Department’s current policies and recommended adding “immigration status” to its impartial policing policy which states, “officers shall not consider race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and religion in establishing either reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”
Additionally, the commission requested the council adopt model policy number eight. This policy states, “Any person who alleges a violation of this (overall) policy may file a written complaint for investigation with the oversight entity.”
Finally, the last recommendation was to consider the police department’s current impartial policing policy that states officers should introduce and identify themselves to a citizen and provide the reason for contact “as soon as practical.” The commission wanted to extend that policy to include Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection when they have access to a city facility. These individuals should also be required to wear duty jackets and make their badges visible at all times, according to the model policy.
City council and staff members had differing opinions on the commission’s recommendations.
Police Chief Jason Sturgis said his department deals with illegal immigrants on a regular basis.
“Their citizenship is almost never an issue,” he said.
In his 22 years as an officer, Sturgis said he has never been asked by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold someone longer than Golden Valley’s 16-hour limit.
He did not understand the request to amend the department’s impartial policy because the verbiage already includes “national origin” as an unaccepted purpose for establishing reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
The commission’s third recommendation is also already enacted within the department, according to Sturgis.
“Anyone can come in and make a complaint,” he said. “We have to report any reports of misconduct.”
In terms of special agencies wearing duty jackets and having their badges visible in local facilities, Sturgis said it is rare for any of the special agencies to visit the department but when they do, they wear everyday attire.
“I understand the passion where this come from but I think we’re doing a pretty darn good job where things stand,” he said.
According to the Human Rights Commission, the recommendations were not meant to fix things that were wrong within the department but to make sure if something ever did occur regarding law enforcement and immigration, that the policy would explain how it would be handled.
“I think people have rights but I also think at the local level it’s hard,” said Council Member Joanie Clausen. “Some of this should be addressed at the state level. There’s a lot here and a lot to think about. How far is our responsibility? Even though I’m totally with human rights, how much power do we really have at a local level?”
Clausen asked the city attorney, whether Golden Valley would fall under state or federal jurisdiction when it came to immigration and law enforcement policies or if the city could simply decide to comply with its own policy.
Maria Cisneros, Golden Valley’s city attorney, said the federal government is 100 percent responsible for immigration laws.
Kathy Vaaler, a resident and supporter of the recommendations, said she is concerned about the direction the country is going regarding immigrants.
“If we have people charged of serious crimes and they’re undocumented, we don’t want them here,” she said. “We’re with you on that.”
According to Vaaler, there are 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
“We can’t afford to send them away,” she said.
After much discussion, Fonnest and Clausen were not prepared to make a decision but hoped the council would take a stand on this issue at some point.
Council member Andy Snope did not want to take any action.
“Enforcing immigration law is federal law,” he said. “I think the person in charge of this country is wrong about immigration.”
Snope said he does not want to find a problem where there is not one.
“I don’t want to draw attention to ourselves,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not ready to react if this comes up.”
Council member Steve Schmidgall agreed the city’s law enforcement situation is working well.
“I would suggest staying the course, and urge your friends and relatives the next time they step into a voting booth on a presidential election not to vote for a racist un-American thug,” he said.
The Human Rights Commission and members of Power People, a subgroup of the American Civil Liberties Union, were surprised by the outcome and encouraged by Mayor Shep Harris to continue applying pressure, according to Vaaler. Several residents wrote emails to the council after the meeting expressing concern.
The commission and Power People hope to keep the conversation going among council members, who they want to eventually want to adopt the recommendations.
The nine policing policies are being suggested to various localities and law enforcement agencies.