As journalists and readers alike scramble to define and elevate fact-based reporting over “fake news,” I urge the Star Tribune to revisit its front-page reporting on “ ‘Sanctuary cities’ under fire,” (Jan. 16). State Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, was quoted as saying, “Cities don’t get to choose a cafeteria-style selection of laws they will enforce and they won’t enforce. If they don’t want to follow the laws, then I don’t think they should get the taxpayers’ money.” Conspicuously absent from the report was any reference to a particular law or provision that is allegedly being violated, or any specific accusation against a particular public official. Likewise, when state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, accuses local officials of “breaking or ignoring federal law,” without mention of what law and by what action or inaction the illegality occurs, it is impossible for the reader to determine the merit of the accusation. Worse than that, by describing local officials as “wedged between increasingly diverse, liberal-leaning constituents” and “hard-line … Republicans,” the issue is cast as a matter of political opinion. In fact, it can be objectively reported where federal jurisdiction begins and ends, and the statutory obligations that follow. Those are the facts that should be front and center in this report. What, in fact, does federal law require? Further, unsubstantiated accusations, if included at all, should be identified as such.
Laura Lassor, Minneapolis
The writer is an attorney.
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What is a “sanctuary city”? What is a “sanctuary”? Per Wikipedia: “A sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place.” So a sanctuary city is a sacred city. We normally protect that which is considered sacred. But protection of whom or what is the issue. Why do our sanctuary cities here in the U.S. protect criminals — who are not sacred, but heinous? Would you put cats in a bird sanctuary? We protect our animals in sanctuaries all over the world for fear their species will become extinct, but fail to protect our citizens, as in the tragic case of young and beautiful Kate Steinle. It’s a strange contradiction. Is human life worth so little? As Dan Cohen wrote in “It’s time for Minneapolis to get off the sanctuary city path” (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 13), sanctuary cities are hideout cities for criminals. If this is his kickoff for mayor of Minneapolis, sign me up. It’s time for a change in America’s definition of a sanctuary city.
Camille Incorvaia, Minneapolis
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Dan Cohen’s remonstrance against the city of Minneapolis for its sanctuary city stance deserves response on several grounds.
Cohen alleges that city reaffirmation of an ordinance against using city resources to ferret a person’s immigration status represents a thumb in President-elect Donald Trump’s eye. The Nov. 18 City Council resolution doesn’t mention Trump or the national political debate. The most relevant clause states, “We reject the politics of division, bigotry, hate, and fear.” The council reaffirmed an ordinance that has existed during both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations.
Cohen alleges that not ferreting out Minneapolitans who have crossed the border without immigration approval makes this city less safe. However, if that were the case, he would not need to reach as far as San Francisco to cite an example of a heinous crime committed by such an individual. The preponderance of crimes in this city are committed by people born as citizens.
The sanctuary law makes Minneapolis safer precisely because lack of enforcement of immigration status by police makes immigrants more likely to provide valuable assistance to police who are investigating cases in their neighborhoods. It makes it more likely they will call 911 to report a crime or join a block club of their neighbors.
The threat of federal or state withholding of aid to sanctuary cities is posed by Cohen as a pragmatic reason for Minneapolis to abandon its policy. He cites the impact this could have on areas such as the North Side or efforts to address income inequality. However, such a federal action could well face an equal-protection challenge. Legislative actions that are neutral on their face but have a disparate, discriminatory impact on particular groups may not survive legal challenge.
Of course, the withholding of aid has the potential to work both ways. If sufficient Minneapolis taxpayers withheld their income tax payments — perhaps by escrowing them with the city — the impact on state finances likely would be noticeable.
A far better course of action would be for the federal government to avoid penalizing cities for congressional inaction toward a reasonable immigration policy. Congress has held the key to resolving this issue. It’s time for action, not casting blame elsewhere.
Steve Brandt, Minneapolis
The writer is a former Star Tribune reporter.
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What if the elected officials of an American city decided that they were no longer going to enforce federal civil-rights laws? And what if the federal government did nothing to stop them? “Wait a minute,” you might object, “those are good laws, but federal immigration laws are bad laws.” Says you. And that’s the whole point of legal precedent. One would be hard-pressed to find a law, federal or otherwise, that enjoys unanimous support. The consistent enforcement of our laws is really the only thing that gives them meaning. While it’s the right, some would say the duty, of all citizens to use the legislative process to seek relief from laws with which they disagree, none of us has the right to pick and choose the laws we’re going to obey. We all need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a society where the application of laws is selective, subject to the ideological bent of the current government. And before you answer, think about what that might look like over the coming four years.
Dan Beck, Minneapolis
THE TRUMP TRANSITION
‘Conflict of interest’ — what does that mean, inherently?
All politicians refer to opponents’ “conflicts of interest” as if it were a disease, or something punishable by ceremonial “stoning.” My friends, there’s nothing wrong with having a conflict of interest. It’s how you conduct yourself in the face of it that makes a difference. And very often, dealing with the situation to everyone’s satisfaction is impossible.
President-elect Trump deserves no sympathy, but in this case he’s got an impossible situation to deal with. He certainly didn’t enter politics to further his business interests. He did it because of a combination of hubris and narcissism, but also sincere opinions about what’s best for our country.
A Jan. 15 letter writer (“A nation backslides on ethics”) suggests that Trump should be a beacon by dramatically resolving his conflicts of interest — i.e., sell or otherwise sacrifice financially.
Should Trump automatically be barred from public office because, unlike many businessmen, his assets are in partnerships and trusts the world over, and are not in a form to be liquidated without losing substantial value? It’s not as if he owns Exxon Mobil common stock, or similar liquid investments. Incurring crippling losses through divestiture is too much to ask!
Ultimately, Trump’s finances will be subject to intense public scrutiny, and I’m resolved to be satisfied with that. If I were Trump, I’d let my opponents chew on this issue, because even if I threw away most of my net worth, my detractors would just find something else to nag about.
Steve Bakke, Edina
WOMEN’S MARCH ON WASHINGTON
Thank goodness there are men who can explain all of this
Oh, my. I just had to laugh when I read the gentleman’s response in the Jan. 16 letters to the editor to Vicki Pieser’s Jan. 12 commentary about why she will be attending the Women’s March on Washington.
I thought: Of course he has to let us all know that he marched in the 1960s while she missed it. Of course her reasons for marching now are not valid like his were. Of course women are just going so that they can hang out with one another and socialize (not taking into account the great expense of missing work and paying to fly out there and stay somewhere or the discomfort of riding a bus for days). Of course women are marching simply to be noticed by the media.
I mean, why else would we march? Maybe because we’re sick to death of being belittled by men who feel they know us and our motivations better than we know ourselves? Maybe because we’re tired of earning less than men no matter how hard we work? Or maybe, just maybe, because this country has elected a “man” to be president who speaks of women in the most vile terms and who brags about assaulting them as though it’s a sport?
I don’t know. Maybe.
Jane Weis, St. Paul