Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.

JLL generously supports MinnPost’s New Americans coverage.

Minnesota politicians vow to resist Trump’s executive orders on immigration

How the president’s key immigration plans might affect Minnesota — and what elected officials have said they will do to respond to Trump’s orders.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar: “The irony in this is that this is a country that people are fleeing to. [But it’s] becoming one of tyranny, is becoming one of dictatorship and is becoming one that’s turning its face against the values that it’s supposed to stand for.”
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi

On Wednesday, just hours after President Donald Trump signed two executive orders on immigration, Rep. Ilhan Omar found herself before a mass of reporters and flashing cameras in an overcrowded basement room inside the Minnesota State Capitol.

It was merely her fourth week on the job, but Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, wanted to weigh in on to the latest news concerning immigration: Trump’s order to build a wall along the Mexican border, to launch a mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and to cut funds to cities and states with sanctuary policies.

“The irony in this is that this is a country that people are fleeing to,” Omar said. “[But it’s] becoming one of tyranny, is becoming one of dictatorship and is becoming one that’s turning its face against the values that it’s supposed to stand for.”

Trump’s executive orders were among a series of plans concerning immigration issues that Trump has rolled out in his first week as president — and there are more to come. This week, for example, he’s expected to sign a plan to bar Syrian refugees and people from Muslim-majority countries. 

Here are some of the president’s key immigration plans, how they might affect Minnesota — and what elected officials have said they’ll do to respond to Trump’s executive orders.

Deportation and sanctuary cities

Minnesota has one of the lowest unauthorized immigrant populations in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center, with around 100,000 people.

On Wednesday, Trump’s executive orders included immediately deporting such immigrants — starting with those who have criminal records.

To do so, the president plans to add 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, who are responsible for repatriating immigrants living in the country illegally. 

Article continues after advertisement

On top of that, Trump wants local law enforcement in each city and state to play a role in detaining undocumented immigrants to ICE. But there are dozens of cities throughout the country — known as “sanctuary cities” — with ordinances limiting collaboration with federal immigration officials.

The executive order Trump signed on Wednesday calls for cutting federal grants to sanctuary cities and states that refuse to collaborate with immigration officials. But mayors of these cities say their sanctuary policies — which officials also call “separation ordinances”— are meant to make their residents feel safe if they desire to come forward as witnesses and victims of crimes without the fear of repatriation.  

Minneapolis and St. Paul are among dozens of sanctuary cities Trump wants to target. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who spoke at the event on Wednesday, encouraged participants to resist the president’s decision, though she didn’t provide any explanation on how she plans to respond to the order, which she described “a big problem” for her government. 

“Donald Trump is doing his best to punish cities that have separation ordinances by threatening funding to cities,” said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. “That’s a big problem and we will need to solve it. But it’s a bigger problem if our democracy comes tumbling down around our ears, which is what its in danger of doing if we give in to these kinds of threats.” 

St. Paul is also one of several sanctuary cities in Minnesota. The city’s mayor, Chris Coleman, wasn’t at the event on Wednesday, but he has previously said that the St. Paul Police Department isn’t responsible for immigration law.     

“Our message is clear: We will resist any attempt by the federal government to tell us how to police our community or to turn our officers into ICE agents,” he wrote in a Pioneer Press opinion piece. “Moreover, we promise to deliver respectful and welcoming services.” 

Banning refugees from Muslim-majority countries

Trump’s Wednesday executive orders didn’t include barring people from Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S. But multiple national news organization, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, indicated that the president plans to sign an executive order halting admission of refugees from Syria and citizens of Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Iran and Iraq. 

Following last year’s terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Brussels and Paris, and several high-profile ISIS-related cases in Minnesota, Trump and other GOP leaders have advocated banning Muslims from entering the country.

At the State Capitol event on Wednesday, Rep. Omar — the state’s only Muslim legislator — spent most of her speaking time on the Muslim ban and insisting that it isn’t an American value. 

“We are doctors, we’re teachers, we’re poets, we’re business owners, we’re factory workers,” she said. “Despite the cold here in Minnesota and in many parts of America, we experienced the warmth of welcoming neighbors.”

She even offered the president to visit her to show another side of the Muslims community.  “I want to offer an opportunity for our new president to come and spend a day with me — to see what it is to be Somali, to be Muslim and to be a refugee that has gotten the opportunity to have a new life.”

Building a border wall 

When he launched his presidential campaign about two years ago, Trump promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America. 

Back then, Trump didn’t share a concrete plan detailing how he was going to do that, how long the wall would be and how much it would cost — though he said Mexico was going to pay for it.

Recently, though, he told the press that U.S. taxpayers will pay the estimated billions of dollars to erect the barricade. But eventually, he added, Mexico will reimburse the U.S. government. 

Whatever the case, Trump will need approval from Congress in securing funding to implement the plan to build a 2,000-mile-long wall.   

Local officials have vowed to push back on that plan, though on Wednesday they were vague on how they would do so. “We are together and we are going to fight together against this,” said state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray. “We refuse to pay for that, we’re going to organize against that because we need health care for our families, we need education. We don’t need a wall.”