Willmar ICE enforcement idea garners support from city residents
WILLMAR -- Two local citizens say they support the possibility of sending a Willmar police officer to a federal immigration enforcement training program.
Errol Bluhm and Ron Maurer of Willmar told the City Council during the meeting's open forum this week that immigration laws should be enforced and they spoke in favor of sending a police officer to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287(g) program.
The purpose of the program is to identify and process for removal criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety or a danger to the community. The program defines a law enforcement agency's authority for arrest, detention and charging the individual. The program trains and supervises officers with a requirement of a two-year commitment.
Bluhm, a retired 16-year Kandiyohi County Family Services employee, said he worked extensively with both legal and illegal immigrant families requesting cash assistance, food support and medical assistance.
He said all immigrants are clever and intelligent and are avid users of technology, such as cell phones, and communicate easily with friends and relatives in other places including international locations.
Bluhm said Willmar is perceived as a destination that provides an easy path upon arrival. Bluhm said the ICE program allows for prompt and effective handling of criminals who are illegal aliens.
"Even illegal aliens living here want a safe and secure existence,'' he said. "What I am saying is I think it behooves the city that it needs to send a signal that we're not a soft, easy spot, that we're going to comply with the laws, we're going to enforce laws, we're not a pushover place.''
The council began discussing the ICE program after council member Steve Ahmann in April encouraged council members to send an officer to the training program to locally enforce immigration laws and deal with the issue of illegal immigration.
Maurer said he thanked Ahmann in an e-mail for the initiative and urged the entire council to support the request.
"The primary duty of all levels of government is to see that all of its citizens are free to pursue their legitimate goals and are free from the activities of those whose actions are in violation of our laws and whose very presence is unlawful,'' said Maurer.
He said the program can strengthen public safety and ensure consistency in prioritizing the arrest and detention of criminal aliens. "Again, public safety: Is that not your primary duty?'' Maurer asked.
Their support for the ICE program contrasts with opposition expressed by individuals who attended the May 17 council meeting. The general theme conveyed by the citizenry was that racial profiling would result; the federal government should be the only government implementing federal immigration laws; and that local efforts should only be directed toward keeping families together.
Mayor Les Heitke had told the crowd of about 100 people attending the May 17 meeting that the matter was tabled and that no decision had been made.
In other business Monday night, the council:
- Approved Heitke's request to nominate businesswoman and former council member Verna Kelly to the Charter Commission. The nomination will go the district court, which approves commission appointments. Heitke nominated Kelly to replace Eileen Huberty who resigned. The council had previously nominated Kelly when a commission vacancy arose, but the court appointed Richard Hoglund. Heitke said the Charter Commission may also submit nominations for the court to consider.
- Held the third annual meeting to discuss the city's storm water pollution prevention plan as required under the permit issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Assistant City Engineer Holly Wilson said the meeting is held to raise awareness of storm water quality and update citizens and council members on what the city did on the storm water plan in 2009 and to discuss future efforts.