WILLMAR -- Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, made known her opposition to the legislation that Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, introduced to train local law enforcement officers at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in South Carolina.
The bill -- which was not passed into law this session -- would raise an estimated $10 million for officer training by adding a $10 surcharge to traffic violations. Gimse has said previously that he introduced the legislation to get the conversation started this year and that he hopes to have support for it next session.
Torres Ray followed the final, grueling hours of the legislative session by driving Monday to Willmar and addressing the local Latino community and the Willmar City Council at its regular meeting.
Torres Ray said she had been contacted by many in the local community after learning a news release issued last week by Gimse stated that she had voiced "enthusiastic" support for his bill. He later apologized for misstating her position.
Torres Ray said she had told Gimse during a two-minute conversation that she was enthusiastic about the fact that he was introducing alternative legislation to a House bill that would replicate Arizona's controversial immigration bill.
Gimse's news release triggered many calls to her office from people in Willmar.
"I'm ready to fight against any legislation that hurts you and your family, that is my promise,'' she said to an audience that filled the council chambers Monday evening prior to the start of the City Council meeting.
Torres Ray said she has looked into the training that the ICE center offers and cannot support Gimse's legislation because of it. She cited a report that called the training "detrimental.''
She said the report found that the training increases the likelihood of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. It also has the result of diverting limited, local law enforcement resources away from serious crimes to lesser ones, she said.
She pointed out that the Legislature just approved $300 million in cuts to Local Government Aid, which only makes it more difficult for local communities to provide police protection.
Torres Ray said she'd like to see comprehensive federal immigration reform. She believes that immigration law enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government, not local governments. "I do not believe my first priority is to provide funding for federal legislation,'' she said.