Group rallies for change in immigration policy and better treatment of Latinos by law enforcement

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“No justice, no peace!”

“What do we want? Citizenship! When do we want it? Now!”

Those were the chants echoing outside of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office as La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (The Assembly for Civil Rights), a faith-based organization that tackles issues of the Latino community, rallied for Sheriff John Sanner to sit down with them.

The group first met with Sheriff Sanner back in July to discuss issues in their community regarding the mistreatment of Latinos by law enforcement and wanting to review the wording in the Foreign Nationals policy, a guideline used by the Stearns County Jail when an undocumented person is arrested or jailed.

After several failed attempts to meet with Sheriff Sanner and the rest of the Sheriff’s Office, the group decided to take matters into their own hands.

Their efforts, however, did not go unnoticed; Sheriff Sanner granted the group the meeting they have long waited for.

Inside Sheriff Sanner’s office, members of the group shared three testimonies of their encounter with law enforcement, from being pulled over for minor offenses, being arrested, having officers follow them and having law enforcement contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after their offence.

One pregnant woman with two children shared her story of being pulled over—she said she gave the officer an ID she used for work, but the officer gave her a ticket for not having a driver’s license. Two days later the officer returned and arrested her for providing false information. She begged the officer to not take her as her two children cried. However, the office said he had to due to false information provided by her. She was taken to jail, fingerprinted, and held for three hours.

After the incident, the woman said ICE officers came knocking on her neighbor’s door. Captain Jon Lentz sat in on the meeting confirmed that the officer did indeed call ICE and arrested the woman because the information provided by her came out to be of a missing person and they needed to verify her identity to make sure she was not the one missing. Lentz, however, says he has always advised his officers to not contact ICE, and whenever ICE comes he says he has asked them to contact their department, but they never do.

Despite that, the group says they still feel like Latinos are being targeted and racially profiled. Sheriff Sanner assured the group he is for immigration reform and understands the difficult situation the group is in, but they have laws they have to follow.

After meeting for about an hour, the group and the Sheriff’s Office came to an agreement regarding the two issues the group had. On Nov. 1 at 10:00 a.m., the group and the Sheriff’s Office will sit down to go over a workshop developed by the group on how law enforcement handles members of their community and strengthening the trust between the two.

After the group found out that Sheriff Sanner did not know who wrote/revised the Foreign Nationals policy, they asked for a second meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 4:00 p.m. to discuss and review the wording in the policy.

Sheriff Sanner says he does acknowledge the Latino community has a lack of trust towards law enforcement, and that is something he is willing to work on.

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