Roseville to take up ‘separation ordinance’ in coming months

Imagine Roseville panelist, immigration attorney and Lauderdale City Council member Kelly Dolphin discussed cities’ roles in immigration enforcement and “separation ordinances” at the May 3 event. A separation ordinance puts into city code a city’s policy of not assisting the federal government in enforcing immigration policy.

Move follows dual events on immigration policy

Does the Roseville Police Department concern itself with peoples’ immigration status? And does Roseville need a “separation ordinance?”

These questions were answered, and more were discussed, during two Imagine Roseville events held May 3 and 4.

Roseville police Chief Rick Mathwig, speaking at the May 3 event held at Roseville Area High School, said his department does not inquire about immigration status. 

Beyond the fact that immigration enforcement is the province of the federal government, Mathwig’s rationale for the department policy was simple.

“So everybody, and I mean everybody, would feel inclined to talk to us and not be afraid” of risking deportation or other immigration issues, he said.

The question regarding a separation ordinance, an entry in city code declaring Roseville’s non-role in immigration enforcement, was answered May 4, when residents at the second event assembled at the Roseville OVAL overwhelmingly recommended the city council work towards such an ordinance.

Following the recommendation, Mayor Dan Roe said the city council would take up the topic in the next couple of months, mentioning the possibility of an ordinance or a city resolution, a statement of policy that is not a part of city code.

Speaking at the RAHS event the night before, which featured an expert panel of immigration lawyers and activists, asked point-blank if Roe was in favor of a separation ordinance for Roseville; he said he wasn’t sure.

“I’m still learning about this so I don’t have an opinion,” he said before the crowd of 50-or-so people, reiterating his position the morning after the event in a brief interview. 

Council member Lisa Laliberte said she was taking a similar stance of “taking it all in” before staking her position.

Council member Tammy McGehee, speaking after the event, said that prior to the election of President Donald Trump, whose administration has ratcheted up anxiety in the immigrant community, she’d urged the council to take action codifying Mathwig’s position.

“This is our police chief’s policy, we as a council should pass something like [a separation ordinance] to back him up,” McGehee said.


Panel discussion

The May 3 Imagine Roseville panel discussion was put together in order to provide context for separation ordinances and other phrases such as “sanctuary city,” which have been in the news as of late.

The first Imagine Roseville event was held last October. The well-attended event was an opportunity for people to discuss the police killing of Philando Castile, who was shot to death during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in July, and other events from last year’s tumultuous summer. 

Since the first event, discussions moved towards concerns about immigration.

The panel included Amiin Huarn, a Somali-American immigration attorney who came to the U. S. as a refugee from Somalia; Kelly Dolphin, also an immigration attorney, and a Lauderdale City Council member; Jana Kooren, the public education and communications director for the ACLU of Minnesota; and Catalina Morales, an organizer for Isaiah, a faith-based activist organization, and an immigrant from Mexico who is in the U. S. under the deferred action for childhood arrivals designation.

Kooren explained there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city — “That can mean something very different, city by city.”

She said three Minnesota cities, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Northfield, currently have separation ordinances on the books.

Such ordinances codify a city’s policy of not diverting resources towards helping federal agencies such as Immigration Customs and Enforcement in its immigration enforcement efforts.

Dolphin said its against federal law for a city or state to “actively thwart” ICE or other agencies from doing their jobs, though, she pointed out, there’s no legal obligation to help. 

“Actively thwarting someone is different than doing them a favor,” she said. 

Huarn gave a brief history lesson on how many Somali refugees ended up in Minnesota — it boils down to decades of strife on the Horn of Africa and the state’s hospitality — and pointed out that immigrants, at all times, are anxious about their status.

“If you are not a [U.S.] citizen,” he said, “you always have immigration concerns.”


In the coming months

Speaking at the May 3 event, Roseville City Manager Pat Trudgeon said any move the city makes on laying out its role in immigration enforcement would be unlikely to hurt it financially.

A recent executive order signed by President Trump seeking to withhold federal funding from self-described sanctuary cities was blocked by a federal judge. 

Trudgeon said that even without the judicial action, Roseville receives little federal funding, and what it does receive comes through the state or Ramsey County.

“We will not be directly impacted,” he said.

Still, there is only so much Roseville can do. As Dolphin explained, people arrested in Roseville often end up at the Ramsey County Jail and in the custody of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which has its own policies regarding immigration enforcement.

“Certain things you can control, that’s good,” she said. “Certain things you can’t, that’s bad.”

With Roseville’s limited reach in mind, McGehee said more protections need to be in place for immigrants.

“There is so much more to do to support these people and we really have to make changes in Ramsey County and Minnesota and all the way up the food chain,” she said.

Both Imagine Roseville events, as noticed by participants, did not include people in favor of stepped-up immigration enforcement or opposed to Roseville adopting a separation ordinance or something similar.

Roe said at the May 4 event that wider media coverage of Roseville’s actions in the coming months will likely bring more people, with different opinions, into the conversation.

“They’ll be at the meetings,” he said. 


Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813.




Rate this article: 
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
Comment Here