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The response of the Minnesota Legislature to the introduction of the North Star Act was disheartening, both because the substance of the bill was lost and because it taught some sad lessons about who gets a voice in making state law. When the press labeled the proposal a "sanctuary" bill, it created a predictable froth of anger sparked by right-wing media outlets that traffic in fear. As a result, some legislative leaders felt compelled to come out in opposition to the bill without reading it or engaging with the communities who have worked hard to bring it to their consideration.

Let's start with what's actually in the bill (HF 3459/SF 3516). The North Star Act prohibits agencies from using state resources to do the job of federal immigration enforcement. Specifically, it prevents discretionary inquiries into a person's immigration status by agents of the state, voluntary sharing of the private data of Minnesotans with federal immigration authorities, and holding or transferring a person to federal immigration authorities without a judicial warrant. It does not affect legally required data-sharing and cooperation, nor does it prohibit collection of immigration data for legitimate public purposes. There are no prohibitions on investigating criminal activity. Also not in this bill are any limits on how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates nor any amnesty for the undocumented, which are strictly within the purview of the federal government. The bill tells Minnesotans that our shared public safety resources are there to promote public safety within our state, and they will not be diverted to do the work of a broken federal immigration system.

Whether they support it or not, I implore our legislators to engage beyond social media and understand that this bill is not a political stunt.

The language of the bill is crafted to reflect Minnesota values and community needs, to respect constitutional powers, and to incorporate what has worked and what hasn't in other states with similar laws. It has been written by nationally recognized legal experts led by the Binger Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota, with input from the ACLU of Minnesota.

The bill incorporates voices of many immigrant communities gathered through listening sessions with newer communities like the Karen and Afghan and with longtime community pillars such as the Mexican, Hmong and Somali.

It reflects the shared faith values of the majority of our state, with endorsements from mosques, synagogues and churches, and leadership from faith-based organizations like the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, Jewish Community Action and the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

The bill is supported by service providers like CAPI USA, COPAL, the Center for Victims of Torture, Violence Free Minnesota and the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which say that this bill will keep our communities safer.

The bill has been endorsed by labor unions such as the SEIU, the UFCW and MFT, which say this will protect their members' rights.

It has been endorsed by the municipalities and school districts, which are already seeing the highest numbers of immigrants and which are doing the most work incorporating them into our community.

We've listened to the voices of law enforcement who understand that community trust is vital to public safety, and we're actively working to make sure this bill protects their ability to operate.

Legislators, the session has only just started. The North Star Alliance is ready to work with you to make this a bill that will protect our state resources from federal government overreach and will encourage our vital immigrant communities, many of whom have been our neighbors for decades, to come out of the shadows, work and volunteer proudly, and build our community together. We admit that we face an uphill battle as a grassroots coalition that has prioritized inclusion over polish and does not have a lobbyist or strategist. We would just ask that you not let fear-based messaging shut the door on legislation that reflects the voices of directly affected constituents and the values of more than a million Minnesotans who are represented by our alliance before we've even had a chance to meet.

Gregory King is board president of ICOM, the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, one of more than 30 member organizations in the North Star Alliance.