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Last year the far-left legislative trifecta in St. Paul passed legislation extending benefits, including free college tuition and free health care, to illegal immigrants. With the 2024 legislative session underway, state Democrats are proposing to go further and make Minnesota the latest sanctuary state. The North Star Act, already supported by a number of DFL lawmakers, seeks to prohibit state and local agencies from sharing data or collaborating with federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration laws.

Before considering Minnesota's response to illegal immigration, we should catalog the scale of the national catastrophe that is our current southern border. In December 2023 alone, more than 300,000 illegal immigrants were encountered attempting to cross the border. This was the highest number of encounters ever recorded. More than 9 million illegal immigrants have entered the U.S. since President Joe Biden took office, and an average of 5,000 illegal immigrants are being released into the U.S. every day. At least 58 people on the terror watchlist have been encountered trying to enter the U.S. between ports of entry this fiscal year.

At least 2,297 people have died attempting to cross the southern border during Biden's time in office. Tens of thousands of migrant children who have come to the U.S. are being exploited and forced into de facto indentured servitude.

Huge quantities of illicit drugs are flowing into the country, with only 5-10% being intercepted. Fentanyl, which arrives substantially through our southern border, is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, killing more than 100,000 people in 2023.

One could ask whether there is anything compassionate, or just, or defensible about the open southern border. Yet this is what the Biden administration has embraced.

The question now is how Minnesota should respond. The experiences of existing sanctuary states like Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York make clear their policies are a disaster. In Massachusetts and New York shelters and public services are overwhelmed. In New York, 30,000 illegal migrants are being housed in hotels, shelters and other facilities around the city at the cost of $5 million per day, and city officials have said that the city will be obligated to pay $1.7 billion this year and $4 billion over two years. The migrant crisis in Chicago was projected to cost $361 million in 2023. In Colorado, health care providers are buckling under the increase in illegal immigrants needing treatment without the means to pay.

Like most policy, immigration policy has immediate effects and downstream effects. When the Biden administration entered office it dramatically eased policies at the border and by doing so sent a message to the world that anyone who comes to the U.S. is likely to be able to stay, potentially with substantial public support. States like those above have sent similar messages. The results have been the unprecedented border crisis we now face. By embracing the North Star Act, alongside other policies like free health care and free college tuition, Minnesota would be making the same mistakes, further encouraging the illegal immigration that has created the humanitarian disaster at our border and creating massive economic and other burdens on our communities.

A recent commentary in the Star Tribune ("Don't stop immigration policy changes in Minnesota before they start," Feb. 23) implored legislators to engage beyond social media and understand that the North Star Act is not a political stunt. Indeed, it is not a stunt. It is a gravely serious set of policies that would be bad for Minnesota and further incentivize the illegal immigration that has created a crisis in our country and harm to migrants themselves. The North Star Act should be rejected.

Jim Schultz is the president of the Minnesota Private Business Council. He was a candidate for Minnesota attorney general in 2022.