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Letter: A good start to building bridges

On May 16 the Willmar Human Rights Commission held a meeting about the status of policies regarding treatment of immigrants by law enforcement within the city of Willmar and in Kandiyohi County.

There were over 30 diverse community members in attendance, many of us representing a faith-based organization called ISAIAH.

We learned that the Willmar Police Department has an informal policy of not asking about immigration status when interacting with the community. They seek to put public safety over immigration enforcement.

We learned that Kandiyohi County does not have a specific contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and they do not hold people specifically for ICE to pick up. They do ask about immigration status and communicate with ICE when someone is booked into the jail, regardless of whether this person is guilty or innocent and regardless of the type of crime committed.

A person may choose not to answer the question on the intake form about U.S. citizenship.

It was encouraging to learn from our law enforcement and have respectful dialogue with an outpouring of community support. We applaud leaders who asked difficult questions; Chief Felt and Sheriff Hartog for engaging in compassionate conversation; and the Human Rights Commission for hosting this conversation.

When we embrace complexity and engage in conversation on difficult topics, we become a stronger community.

This was just a beginning. We are committed to conversation at all levels to ensure all our neighbors feel safe and that the policies and systems we implement locally contribute to the safety of everyone.

I believe that we are all a part of the same body regardless of where we came from or how we got here, and it is through education and communication that we can build bridges and spread empathy and love.

Linda Olsen