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Immigrant advocates, DFL lawmakers campaign for North STAR Act

Two women wearing face masks hold up signs that say 'Keep Families Together.'
Chenda Hing and Kay Moua with Minnesota 8 came to the Capitol on Feb 8, 2024 to support the North STAR Act. (CBJ Photo/Jasmine McBride)

On Thursday morning a press conference at the Capitol overflowed with supporters of the North STAR Act, a bill that would make Minnesota a sanctuary state for immigrants in the U.S. without legal authorization. Though the bill was only recently proposed, this press conference was held to stress the urgency of approving the bill while Democrats still have complete control of state government.

If the bill is passed, law enforcement and government agencies on the local and state level would be barred from asking about a person's immigration status or aiding in civil immigration enforcement. Supporters say it would create a sense of safety for immigrants who make large contributions to the Minnesotan economy. 

“This is a huge piece of legislation that will really humanize our communities that are often overlooked, stomped on, and seen as unimportant,” said Minnesota 8 organizer, Chenda Hing. “There’s so much power in the room when we’re all in one space together. This came from a lot of our fears that turned into passion, and then turned into resilience.” 

Minnesota 8 is a non-profit committed to providing resources and support to local Southeast Asians facing deportation. 

Kay Moua, Director of Programs & Power-Building for Minnesota 8, says as a Hmong-American born into a lineage of refugees, this bill is personal. 

“I always say that I am a descendent of people who faced genocide and came here holding onto love and hope,” said Moua. “We are getting closer to building the world that we want to see in our community, where our families will get to live with justice, with safety and happiness, which we all deserve… And this bill will help us get there.” 

Amy Alvarez Cruz, Decriminalizing Communities Organizer for Jewish Community Action, says this bill would begin the dismantling process of who is seen as human, and who is not.

“My family migrated here 26 years ago when we were in search of the American dream. My parents were able to become residents in the United States, but the reality came in that not everybody has that luxury, that privilege,” said Cruz. “I’m showing up for those that don’t have a voice yet, and making sure that we are protecting immigrant communities of this state and of this country.”

Cruz says Jewish Community Action supports the public safety of immigrants. She says this bill would contribute to the wellness of local immigrants who are often robbed of peace of mind for trying to seek better for themselves and their families. 

But this bill is not without its critics. Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson says he will be voicing his opposition during the legislative session. 

“Attempts to make Minnesota a 'sanctuary state' – especially following recent surges of migrants here – emphasize why border security is so important to the entire country, not just border states. Refusing to uphold our immigration laws would simply be political gamesmanship from left-wing activists,” said Rep. Johnson in a statement to his local radio station. “We shouldn’t make Minnesota a more enticing place to go to avoid the consequences of violating immigration law. It’s unfair to force Minnesota taxpayers to pay for the high costs associated with illegal immigration due to overburdening our social services.”

The North STAR Coalition plans to hold a rally at the Capitol at 11:00 a.m. on February 12, the first day of the legislative session.

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