Donald Trump’s presidency has come with a silver lining for DFLers at Minneapolis City Hall: He’s rallying the base.
In a municipal election year, the new president has set a fire under Democrats and triggered a vigorous competition among politicians over who can denounce him the loudest.
Mayoral candidates Betsy Hodges and Jacob Frey have both repeatedly said that Minneapolis — its values and its residents — are “under attack” from Trump, and each argues they are the one best able to protect the city. Several council candidates have made Trump an issue in their campaigns.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people wanting to get involved and help take our country back,” said Dan McConnell, chairman of the Minneapolis DFL. “It’s focused on immigration, women’s rights, just the chaos that seems to follow everywhere he goes,” McConnell said of the president.
On Tuesday, Minneapolis City Council chambers were full at the often lightly attended meeting of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, this time focused on Trump’s immigration executive orders.
City Attorney Susan Segal said at the start that “Minneapolis does not violate federal law, according to legal precedent,” and likely would not be considered a sanctuary city under Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order, which threatens to cut off federal funds to governmental jurisdictions that refuse to help enforce federal immigration laws.
Segal’s comments did not stop the meeting from plowing on for another two hours, though, with everyone in apparent agreement that the city should resist the Trump administration.
Hodges attended, which she rarely does for committee meetings, and spoke briefly.
“President Trump is doing what he said he would do on the campaign trail,” she said. “He’s increasing authoritarianism with disregard for and attacks on the fundamentals of our democracy.”
State Reps. Ilhan Omar and Raymond Dehn — who is also running for mayor — also attended the Intergovernmental Relations meeting.
Most members of the committee — Frey, Abdi Warsame, Elizabeth Glidden, Alondra Cano and Andrew Johnson — spoke at some length before they unanimously passed a resolution condemning Trump’s orders and then directed city staff to create a sanctuary city task force aimed at better protecting undocumented immigrants, Muslim residents and refugees.
“Donald Trump can say whatever he wants; he can put whatever he wants in an executive order,” Frey said, citing Trump’s flurry of orders meant to fulfill his campaign promises. “But Donald Trump cannot undo the Constitution. He cannot undo 100 years of jurisprudence that is built to protect those in the minority,” Frey said.
Several City Council members who don’t serve on the committee — Lisa Bender, John Quincy, Kevin Reich and Cam Gordon — attended the meeting as well, which is also unusual.
Bender said the meeting was an important way for the city to acknowledge and legitimize the fears of Minneapolis residents over Trump’s orders and pronouncements, particularly on immigration.
“Maybe it will turn out to be less problematic than it appears, but I know that people across our city are genuinely afraid,” said Bender. “Allowing time and attention from so many policymakers is a way for us to show that we are taking this issue very seriously.”
With nary a Republican in sight, precinct caucuses looming in April and all Minneapolis council members except Linea Palmisano and Bender facing competition for a DFL endorsement, candidates across the city are battling to stake out positions as those most capable of resisting Trump.
Yet it’s not clear if Trump’s actions on immigration will affect Minneapolis directly. A 2003 city ordinance restricts the collection of information about immigrants living in the country illegally by separating the work of local police from that of federal immigration agents. Trump’s order requires that local police share information with federal authorities, but says nothing about what information they collect, Segal said.
Those who support Trump’s policy and would like to see the country impose stricter immigration controls are focused on county jails, not city police departments.
But Cano, who led the effort to create the sanctuary city task force, said that regardless of the direct impact on the government of Minneapolis, the city should work to protect immigrants with a legal-defense fund and partnership with immigration advocacy groups.
Mass deportation of undocumented immigrants from Minneapolis would be disastrous for the city, Cano said, because of the effect it would have on businesses, homes and neighborhoods.
“If this executive order is successful, Minneapolis will fall to its knees,” Cano said. “It’s not just about them, it’s about us.”