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Sanctuary state bill already dead as House speaker says it doesn’t have the votes

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Sanctuary state bill already dead as House speaker says it doesn’t have the votes

Feb 12, 2024 | 5:10 pm ET
By Deena Winter
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Sanctuary state bill already dead as House speaker says it doesn’t have the votes
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Immigrants wait overnight next to the U.S.-Mexico border fence to seek asylum in the United States on Jan. 07, 2023 as viewed from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

The legislative session had not even begun when a DFL bill to make Minnesota a so-called sanctuary state found itself sinking through thin ice. 

Swing-district Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, said on social media Saturday he won’t support the bill. Given the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s one-seat majority in the Senate, that means it’s dead on arrival.

Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, also voiced opposition, tweeting, “I do NOT support Minnesota becoming a Sanctuary State…and this WILL NOT become law!” 

The proposal would ban state and local law enforcement from working with federal agencies on civil immigration enforcement, unless as part of a criminal investigation. 

After the first House floor session Monday, Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, was blunt about the bill’s prospects. 

“I don’t believe that there are the votes for that bill to move in the House or the Senate,” she said. “I just don’t think there’s the votes.” 

Washington has been consumed with immigration politics for months. Republicans demanded a restrictive immigration law in exchange for money for American allies Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, only to walk away from a deal negotiated by a trio of Senate negotiators including a Republican, Democrat and Independent.

Former President Donald Trump pushed Republicans to vote against the deal so he could highlight immigration during his campaign as the presumptive Republican nominee. 

Asked if it was too controversial a proposal during an election year — especially when illegal immigration is a top issue in the presidential race — Hortman said, “I don’t think a lot of us know completely what’s in it or what the authors had in mind when they introduced the bill.” 

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, struck a more conciliatory tone when asked about Hortman’s take: “I think it’s important that we rely on the committee process,” she said. “So there will be bills that are introduced — some of them are going to be heard, not all of them — some will come to the floor for a vote.” 

It was a blow to the dozens of people who packed an exuberant Capitol press room — and spilled out into the hallway — last week to support the bill, whose chief authors are Rep. Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, an immigration attorney, and Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis. 

Feist said last week the maximum number of authors had been added to the House bill, which was dubbed The North Star Act (SF2724, HF2860). 

Hundreds of U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, have passed similar policies, declaring themselves sanctuary cities, and 12 states have declared themselves sanctuary states.