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Displaying a handful of false IDs and pictures of drugs and guns seized from illegal immigrants, the governor said that continuing to "flagrantly ignore" the situation would erode public support for legal immigration.
"We've winked and nodded at some of these issues," Worthington Police Chief Mike Cumiskey said at the news conference. He added, however, that the biggest impact of illegal immigration is "side issues" such as unlicensed and uninsured drivers and victims unwilling to report crimes.
Despite an influx of immigrants in the last decade, Cumiskey said Worthington's crime rate has not increased. And while the southwest Minnesota city does not bar police from asking people who haven't been arrested about their immigration status -- as do ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul that Pawlenty's plan would overrule -- Cumiskey said his officers don't do so.
Another police chief with many immigrants in his jurisdiction, Chaska's Scott Knight, suggested that asking such questions would amount to racial profiling. He denounced the governor's proposal as "the politics of fear" and said immigrants "are causing no more trouble than any other group."
According to a widely disputed study issued by the Pawlenty administration last month, illegal immigrants number 80,000 to 85,000 in Minnesota and cost taxpayers up to $188 million a year. The study did not attempt to measure the economic or tax contributions of undocumented aliens, however.
"Our history is based on immigration," the governor said. "Our future counts on it. The federal government has the bulk of the responsibility for enforcing the immigration laws. But there are some things states can do and should do."
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