Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Jul 25th, 2008

On July 21, 2008, the St. Cloud Times, in an article titled “Immigrants rights are topic of forum,” reported a Spanish-language community forum to be held August 9 in Cold Spring “to help residents understand their rights and discuss legal and civil rights issues.” According to the report, topics would include “protections against discrimination, employment abuses and other concerns.” It was also reported that a workshop “on immigration and detained immigrants rights would follow the forum.”

As I noted at the time (July 21, 2008; Day 7 on this blog) the article prompted heated debate in the Times online “In Your Voice” reader commentary, with some readers suggesting the forum involved a misappropriation of taxpayer dollars to benefit illegal aliens.

In my opinion, an event of this nature, if intended for legal immigrants, is a legitimate use of public funds. However, I can appreciate the concerns of some, given the extent to which the term “immigrant” has devolved as a catch-all phrase for both legal immigrants and undocumented migrants.

As the time of the report, I promised to establish the facts of the matter and report back on this website (see July 21  2008; Day 7 on this blog).

Subsequently, I wrote Mr. Mario A. Hernández of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, to inquire whether the event was intended specifically for legal immigrants and whether public funds will be used to benefit undocumented aliens.

Here is his response, dated July 23, 2008:

Mr. Immelman,

Thank you for your inquiry about the Know Your Rights forum scheduled for August 9, 2008, in Cold Spring, MN. I too saw the article titled “Immigrants rights are topic of forum” in the St. Cloud Times.

Let me clarify one point. There are two separate items taking place on August 9, 2008. The Know Your Rights forum is being hosted by a collaborative of government and nonprofit organizations that enforce and educate around civil and human rights. The intent of this forum is to educate Spanish-speaking residents of the Cold Spring area about their rights in the area of employment, housing, business, and immigration. These are common areas in which my department and my colleagues at other civil enforcement agencies receive frequent questions. This educational forum will provide event attendees an opportunity to learn more about their rights and to ask questions about issues directly affecting them.

A workshop focusing on the rights of immigrants who are detained/stopped by police or immigration officials will be held after the Know Your Rights forum. This workshop is being sponsored by one of the partner organizations who helped organize the Know Your Rights forum. This organization, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, is a private non-profit organization that provides legal services to the growing immigrant and refugee communities in Minnesota.

The St. Cloud Times article failed to mention that the immigration workshop was being sponsored by the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, even though our press release included this fact.

Our department’s outreach events are open to all residents of Minnesota, since everyone residing in our state is protected against discrimination. The Immigrant Law Center works with immigrants of all immigration status, since their particular mission is to help people navigate the immigration process.

I hope this answers your questions.

Mario A. Hernández
Legislative and Community Affairs
Minnesota Department of Human Rights
190 East 5th Street, Suite 700
St. Paul, MN 55101
PH: 651.297.5091
FAX: 651.296.9042
TTY: 651.296.1283

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