U.S. Reduces Refugee Admissions to 15,000 for Fiscal 2021

On September 30, 2020, the U.S. State Department announced that President Trump will be submitting to Congress a report that he has determined that the U.S. will reduce its refugee admissions for Fiscal 2021 (October 1, 2020—September 30, 2021) to 15,000. [1]

It must be understood that the individuals who will be admitted to the U.S. under this quota already have been vetted and determined by a U.N. agency to have met the international and U.S. legal definition of “refugee:” someone who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”[2]

The State Department attempted to reduce the adverse humanitarian consequences of this reduction by claiming, “The United States is committed to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes while advancing our foreign policy interests.  Given the dire situation of nearly 80 million displaced people around the world, the mission of American diplomacy is more important than ever.”

Other points of this attempt to reduce the adverse consequences of this decision are the following:

  • “In line with the U.S. National Security Strategy, we are working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their homes as possible until they can safely and voluntarily return to rebuild their lives, their communities, and their countries.  As part of our longstanding leadership in international humanitarian crisis response, the United States provided more than $9 billion in humanitarian assistance in Fiscal Year 2019 and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance over the past decade.”
  • “The President’s proposal for refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2021 reflects the Administration’s continuing commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  It accounts for the massive backlog in asylum cases – now more than 1.1 million individuals – by prioritizing those who are already in the country seeking humanitarian protection.  It also accounts for the arrival of refugees whose resettlement in the United States was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “Refugee resettlement is only one aspect of U.S. humanitarian-based immigration efforts.  Since 1980, America has welcomed almost 3.8 million refugees and asylees, and our country hosts hundreds of thousands more people under other humanitarian immigration categories.  This year’s proposed refugee resettlement program continues that legacy with specific allocations for people who have suffered or fear persecution on the basis of religion; for Iraqis whose assistance to the United States has put them in danger; for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and for refugees from Hong Kong, Cuba, and Venezuela.” (Emphasis added.)

The State Department continued, The President’s proposal for refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2021 reflects the Administration’s continuing commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  It accounts for the massive backlog in asylum cases – now more than 1.1 million individuals – by prioritizing those who are already in the country seeking humanitarian protection.  It also accounts for the arrival of refugees whose resettlement in the United States was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Emphasis added.)

According to the State Department, the U.S. anticipates receiving 285,000 asylum requests in the upcoming fiscal year. Such applications must meet the previously mentioned international and U.S. definition of “refugee.” However, the Department’s statement admits the U.S. has a  “massive backlog in asylum cases – now more than 1.1 million individuals.”

After criticisms of this decision emerged from various groups that are discussed below, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo from Rome tried to defend this decision. He said, “We continue to be the single greatest contributor to the relief of humanitarian crisis all around the world, and we will continue to do so. Certainly so long as President Donald Trump is in office, I can promise you this administration is deeply committed to that.”

Reactions [3]

This establishment of a 15,000 quota for refugees is a 3,000 reduction from last year’s quota of 18,000, which was the lowest since the introduction of the U.S. refugee program in 1980. In contrast, in Fiscal 2017, the last full year of the Obama Administration, the quota was 85,000 while the Trump Administration’s first two years (Fiscal 2018 and 2019) set the quotas at 53,000 and 30,000.

This further reduction is seen as another point of President Trump’s “anti-immigrant themes in the closing month of his re-election campaign.” It was done as the President was “unleashing a xenophobic tirade against one of the nation’s most prominent refugees, Representative Ilhan Oma, on Wednesday night at a rally in her home state of Minnesota.”

According to a Washington Post columnist, Catherine Rampell, this presidential decision “in one fell swoop, . . .managed  to betray his country’s humanitarian interests, its national security interests, its economic interests and even his own narrow political interests to boot. . . . The only constituency helped by Trump’s latest cruelty are the bigots and knee-jerk nationalists crafting his policies. For the rest of us, it represents an incalculable loss.”

As anticipated, refugee advocacy groups condemned this decision.

  • Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, called the 15,000 cap an “abdication” of the nation’s humanitarian leadership role in the world. “This absurdly low number is based on nothing more than xenophobic political pandering, and it’s no surprise that this all-time low comes during an election year. We have shown as we have resettled thousands of refugees that there’s no evidence any of these arrivals have endangered Americans. Refugees come to this country after the most extreme vetting procedures, including medical-health checks.”
  • The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota’s Executive Director, Veena Iyer, said, “Slashing refugee numbers and refusing admission to desperate people whose lives are in danger, especially those whose lives are in danger because of their service to U.S. soldiers and peacekeepers, is appalling. Instead of leading the world in protecting the persecuted, the actions of this administration are an abdication of leadership.”
  • Oxfam America’s Isra Chaker said, “This inexcusable new admissions ceiling is a mere fraction of the number of refugees the United States can and should resettle in a year. During the final year of the previous administration, the U.S. safely and successfully resettled an average of 15,000 refugees every two months.”

The same reaction came from faith-based groups.

  • Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, a global Christian aid agency, said Trump has reneged on his promise to protect persecuted Christians in the world. “Instead, we’ve seen the resettlement of refugees from countries known for persecution drop about 90% in some cases over the last four years. This is unconscionable.”
  • Rev. John L. McCullough, head of the Church World Service, which helps resettle refugees in the United States, “described the shrinking of refugee admissions as immoral and urged Congress to . . . recommend changes or seek to influence the decision through budgeting, but is largely powerless to alter the determination. . . .Our values as a nation and as people of faith demand that we take action when people’s lives are in danger.”
  • “The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, denounced the chipping away of the refugee program as part of “the ongoing Trump administration effort to maintain systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy.”
  • Isaiah, a Minnesota faith coalition stated, “We know that we are better off together and that all of us, no matter where we come from or how we pray, want our communities to thrive and our voices to be heard. Overcoming tremendous challenges, Somali Minnesotans bravely moved to Minnesota with their families and have helped make this state vibrant.”

Finally this Trump decision is impeached by recent praises of refugees for their contributions to the economy and culture of 29 states by their governors (both Democrat and Republican).

For example, Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz’s letter to Secretary Pompeo stated, ““Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge. Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home. Refugees strengthen our communities. Bringing new cultures and fresh perspectives, they contribute to the social fabric of our state. Opening businesses and supporting existing ones, they are critical to the success of our economy. Refugees are doctors and bus drivers. They are entrepreneurs and police officers. They are students and teachers. They are our neighbors.”

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[1] State Dep’t, Transmission of the President’s Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 (Sept. 30, 2020). 

[2] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Art. 1 (A)(2),189 U.N.T.S. 150, entered into force April 22, 1954; Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Art. I(2), 606 U.N.T.S. 267, entered into force Oct. 4,, 1967; Refugee Act of 1980, 8 U.S.C. sec. 1101(a)(42), Refugee and Asylum Law: The Modern Era, dwkcommentaries.com (July 9, 2010).

[3] U.S. Sets 18,000 Quota for New Refugee Admissions to U.S., dwkcommentareis.com (Nov. 4, 2019); Kanno-Youngs & Shear, Trump Virtually Cuts Off Refugees as He Unleashes a Tirade on Immigrants, N.Y. Times (Oct. 1, 2020); Rampell, Trump’s refugee ceiling is bad for everyone except bigots, Wash. Post (Oct. 1, 2020);  Watson & Lee, Faith Groups decry Trump’s plans for record low refugee cap, Wash. Post (Oct. 1, 2020); Miroff, Trump cuts off refugee cap to lowest level ever, depicts them on campaign trail as a threat and burden, Wash. Post (Oct. 1, 2020);Smith, Trump administration again seeks to slash refugee numbers, StarTribune (Oct. 1, 2020); Rights groups appalled as Trump cuts US refugee admissions to record low, Guardian (Oct. 1, 2020); U.S. State Governments Celebrate Refugees’ Accomplishments, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 2, 2020). 

Pretrial Hearing in Criminal Cases Over George Floyd Killing

On June 29, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill held a pretrial hearing in the George Floyd criminal cases against Derek Chauvin,Tou Thao,Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.[1]

The judge scheduled another pretrial hearing for September 11 and for the trial tentatively to start on March 8. Although the prosecutors seem to be pushing for a consolidated trial, defense counsel are expected to request separate trials so that should be a future issue for the court to resolve.

None of the officers entered pleas at the hearing, but Lane’s attorney told the court he would be filing a motion to dismiss the case against his client for alleged insufficiency of evidence. Afterwards Kueng’s attorney filed a document with the court advising that his client intends to plead not guilty, claiming self-defense and use of reasonable and authorized force.

One of the major issues at the hearing was whether public officials’ statements about the cases might call for a change of venue from Minneapolis in Hennepin County to another county. Robert Paule, the attorney for Thao, said he was planning to make such a motion in light of public statements by Police Chief Arradondo and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Harrington, who have called Floyd’s death a “murder,” along with other statements by Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Judge Cahill acknowledged these statements, and said people who are aligned with the state’s stance on the case are pushing it toward a change of venue. “It’s in everyone’s best interest” that no public statements about the case be made, the Judge said, noting that they’ve come from family, friends and law enforcement officials. “What they’re doing is endangering the right to a fair trial” for all the parties.

“They need to understand that; at this point they need to be aware of that,” Cahill said, and asked Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank if prosecutors are addressing the matter with public officials. In response, Frank said, “We are just as interested in fair trial and are acutely aware of the issues you talk about. We have asked people not to talk about this case … we’ve done our best to make the court’s concerns known to them and will continue to do so.”

The Judge also admonished two members of Floyd’s family for visibly reacting to his statements at the hearing. Afterwards George Floyd’s uncle, Selwyn Jones, told journalists he was offended by the Judge’s comments.

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[1] Xiong, Former officers to appear in court Monday in George Floyd killing, StarTribune (June 29, 2020); Xiong, In George Floyd case,  judge warns that public officials speaking out could force venue change, StarTribune (June 30, 2020); Neuman, Tentative Trial Date Set For Ex-Minneapolis Officers Accused in George Floyd Death, MPR News (June 29, 2020); Chakraborty, Four ex-cops Linked to George Floyd’s death appear in court, judge sets 2021 trial date, Fox News (June 29, 2020); Bailey & Berman, Ex-Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd’s killing get tentative trial date in March, Wash. Post (June 29, 2020); Arango, In Court, Derek Chauvin’s Lawyers Say Officials Have Biased the Case, N.Y. Times (June 29, 2020); Wernau & Barrett, Officers charged in George Floyd’s Killing Appear Before Judge, W.S.J. (June 30, 2020); George Floyd judge warns he may move trials if officials keep talking about the case, Guardian (June 29, 2020).

 

 

 

The Criminal Complaint Against Derek Chauvin Over the Death of George Floyd

On May 29, Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, issued the first criminal Complaint over the May 25th death of George  Floyd. It stated there was probable cause that former Minneapolis Policeman Derek Michael Chauvin had caused the death of George Floyd in a manner that constituted Third Degree Murder and Second Degree Manslaughter under Minnesota law.[1]

On June 3 the above complaint was superseded by a second criminal Complaint against Chauvin that was issued by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who had been appointed only two days earlier by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to assume overall responsibility for the case. This pleading added the charge of second degree murder.[2]

As noted in a prior post, on June 8 Chauvin had his initial hearing in this case and his bail was increased to $1,250,000 without conditions and $1 million with conditions; his next hearing is scheduled for June 29, when he is expected to enter his plea to the charges.

The Second Criminal Complaint Against Chauvin[3]

COUNT I: Second Degree Murder (Unintentional While Committing a Felony).

The Complaint alleges In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.19.2(1), “on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, . . . Chauvin, caused the death of a human being, George Floyd, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force of violence or a drive-by shooting, namely assault in the third degree.”

Section 609.19.2(1) od Minnesota Statutes states, “Whoever does . . . the following is guilty of unintentional murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years: causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence or a drive-by shooting.”

“Assault” is defined in Minnesota Statutes section 609.02.10 as(1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or (2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.” And “assault in the third degree” is defined in section 609.223.1 as “Whoever assaults another and inflicts substantial bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.”

‘Bodily harm” is defined in Minnesota Statutes 609.02.7 as “physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition,” while ”substantial bodily harm” in section 609.02.8 is defined as “bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member.”

Thus, the key factual issues for this Count are (1) whether Chauvin’s placing of his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold was done with intent to cause Floyd to fear immediate bodily harm or death or with intent to inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm on Floyd; (2) whether Chauvin’s placing of his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold caused Floyd substantial bodily harm; and (3) whether Chauin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold caused Floyd’s death.

COUNT II: Third Degree Murder (Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind)

The Complaint alleges,“In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.195(a),on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, . . . Chauvin caused the death of another, George Floyd,  by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

That statute states, “Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.”

Thus, the key factual issues for this Count are (1) was Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold an eminently dangerous act; (2) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold evince a depraved mind; and (3) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold cause Floyd’s death.

COUNT III: Second Degree Manslaughter (Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk)

The Complaint alleges, In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.205(1), “on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota,  . . . [Chauvin] caused the death of another, George Floyd,  by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chances of causing death or great bodiliy harm  to another, George Floyd.”

That statute states, “A person who causes the death of another by . . . [the person’s] culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to [another] is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.” “Great bodily harm’ is defined as “bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.” (Minn. Stat. sec. 609.02.8.)

Thus, the key fact issues on this Count are (1) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold create an unreasonable risk of causing death or great bodily harm to Floyd; (2) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold consciously take the chances of causing death or great bodily harm to Floyd; and (3) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold cause Floyd’s death.

Statement of  Probable Cause

“On May 25, 2020, someone called 911 and reported that a man bought merchandise from  a Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota with counterfeit $20 bill. At 8:08 p.m., Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng arrived with their bodyworn cameras (BWCs) activated and running. The officers learned from store personnel that the man who passed the counterfeit $20 was parked in a car around the corner from the store on 38th Street.”

“BWC video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the Officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger  side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female in the backseat. As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.”

“While Officer Kueng was speaking with the front seat passenger, Officer Lane ordered Mr.  Floyd out of the car, put his hands on Mr. Floyd and pulled him out of the car. Officer Lane handcuffed Mr. Floyd.”

“Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd  walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane’s direction. When Mr. Floyd sat down he said, “thank you man” and was calm. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd if he was “on anything”and noted there was foam at the edges of his mouth. Officer Lane explained that he was arresting Mr. Floyd for  passing counterfeit currency.”

“At 8:14 p.m., MPD Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car. As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Mr. Floyd told the officers he was not resisting but he did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.”

“MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thao then arrived in a separate squad car.”

“The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of their squad car by pushing him from the driver’s side. As the officers were trying to force Mr. Floyd in the backseat, Mr. Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily sit in the backseat and the officers physically struggled to try to get him in the backseat.”

“[Chauvin] went to the passenger side and tried to get  Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.”“[Chauvin] pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Lane held hie legs . [Chauvin] placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said ‘I’m about to die.’ [Chauvin] and the other two officers stayed in their positions.”

“One of the officers said, ‘You are talking fine’ to Mr. Floyd as he contintued to move back and forth. Lane asked, ‘should we roll him on his side?’ and [Chauvin] said, ‘ No, staying put where we got him.’ Officer Lane said, ‘I am worried about delirium or whatever.’ [Chauvin] said, ‘That’s why we have him on his stomach.’ [Chauvin] and Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s right hand up. None of the three officers changed their positions.”

“While Mr. Floyd showed slight movements, his movements and sounds decreased until at 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, ‘want to roll him on his side.’ Kueng checked Mr.Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, ‘I couldn’t find one.’ None of the officers moved from their positions.”

“At 8:27:24, [Chauvin] removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An  ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.”

“The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26,     2020. While the ME did not observe physical findings supportive of mechanical asphyxia, the ME opines that Mr. Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and toxicology testing revealed the presence of fentanyl and evidence pf recent methamphetamine use. The ME opined that the effects of the officers’ restraint of Mr. Floyd, his underlying health conditions, and the presence of the drugs contributed to his death. The ME listed the cause of death as ‘ [c]ardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdural, restraint, and neck compression,’ and concluded the manner of death was homicide.”[4]

[Chauvin] and Officers [Lane] and Kueng subdued Mr. Floyd prone to the ground in this manner for nearly 9 minutes. During this time, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe and his physical condition continued to deteriorate such that force was no longer necessary to control him. [Chauvin] had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd’s losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”

“[Chauvin] is in custody.”

Analysis of Second Complaint Against Chauvin

In addition to the previously stated factual issues under the Minnesota criminal statutes xfor the three counts of the Complaint, others are raised by  the Minneapolis Police Department Policy and Procedures Manual, which at the time recognized both a “choke hold” and “neck restraint” as permissible under certain circumstances.[5]

The Manual stated that a “Choke Hold’ is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2, as “Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.” (Manual sec. 5-302.)

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.”

  • “The “Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • The “Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
    • 1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
    • 2. For life saving purposes, or;
    • 3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

These provisions raise the factual issues of whether or not Chauvin was applying “direct pressure” on Mr. Floyd’s “trachea or airway” and thus using a “chokehold.” The other requirement for chokehold seems established: he at least reasonably should have known that this procedure  created a “substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm,” especially after the warnings by bystanders and by Lane and Kueng.

If, however, Chauvin was not applying direct pressure on Mr. Floyd’s trachea or airway and was not applying a “chokehold,” he was applying a “neck restraint.” But the Complaint definitely suggests that Mr. Floyd was not “actively resisting” and thus it was not a”conscious neck restraint.” In addition, the facts alleged in the Complaint strongly suggest that Mr. Floyd was not “exhibiting active aggression . . . [or] resistance. . . and that it was not used for “life saving purposes.” And thus it was not a valid “unconscious neck restraint.” Moreover, had Chauvin received “training from the MPD Training about neck restraints”? If not, then his use of a neck restraint was not authorized.

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”[6]

A professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies policing. Seth W. Stoughton, said. “Keeping Mr. Floyd in the facedown position with his hands cuffed behind his back is probably what killed him.” About 20 years ago police training started emphasizing avoiding that prone position. Moreover, Stoughton offered, applying the knee to the back of the neck rather than to the sides risks killing or seriously injuring someone by cutting off the air supply or damaging the cervical spine and other delicate bones in the neck. No department permits such a technique in ordinary circumstances.

Mylan Masson, who directed a law enforcement training course at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota, said she stopped teaching the knee restraint technique to new police officers after the Eric Garner case in 2014.

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

As a New York Times journalist observed, “For police trainers and criminologists, the episode appears to be a textbook case of why many police departments around the country have sought to ban outright or at least limit the use of chokeholds or other neck restraints in recent years: The practices have led too often to high-profile deaths.”

Conclusion

 An immense debt of gratitude is owed by everyone to the 17-year-old woman who was at the scene and pulled out her cell phone to video record this police encounter.The next day she said, “I started recording as soon as I heard him trying to fight for his life. The world needed to see what I was seeing.” She added, “Stuff like this happens in silence too many times. She hopes her video can in some way bring about “peace and equality. We are tired of police killing us.”  Later her attorney said, “She had no idea she would witness and document one of the most important and high-profile police murders in American history. If it wasn’t for her bravery, presence of mind, and steady hand, and her willingness to post the video on Facebook and share her trauma with the world, all four of those police officers would still be on the streets, possibly terrorizing other members of the community.”[7]

Her example should be remembered by everyone should we ever be in a similar situation. Get out your cell phone and video the encounter. Indeed, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo encouraged others to do the same when confronted with such a scene involving officers’ actions. “Record. Record, absolutely. Record, call. Call a friend. Yell out. Call 911. We need a supervisor to the scene. Absolutely. I need to know that. We need to know that. So the community plays a vital role and did two weeks ago.”

Without that video in the George Floyd case, just imagine how difficult it would be to mount such a prosecution.

However, there still will be challenges for the prosecution in this case.[8]

Former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said the prosecution needed to be “painstakingly thorough” with this case and that such cases “are way more complicated and the burden on the prosecution is higher than I think the public understands.”  Of the same opinion was Thomas Heffelfinger, former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, who said, “It’s not a slam dunk and these cases never are. These cases are hard to prove and we have to make sure we do it correctly.”

Those comments are perfectly understandable in cases where the policeman has to make split-second decisions when his or her life is at stake. But that is not this case here. So I wonder about these assessments by Gaertner and Heffelfinger even though they are both capable attorneys whom I know and who have significant criminal law experience that I do not share.

Another Minnesota attorney, Stephen Grego, saw the following challenges. First, inflammatory statements from elected officials in Minneapolis may have created substantial pretrial prejudice, leading to a change of venue from Hennepin County, which in turn could decrease minority juror representation. Second, causation will be a contested issue with the defense emphasizing the medical examiner’s findings of “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” to argue that Chauvin did not cause the death. Third, Minnesota law gives police officers broad discretion to use force when making an arrest. Fourth, can a person with a “depraved mind” direct his or her actions against a specific individual?

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[1] Read the complaint charging ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, StarTribune (May 30, 2020); Xiong & Walsh, Ex-police officer Derek Chauvin charged with murder, manslaughter in George Floyd death, StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Hennepin County attorney announces charges against Derek Chauvin (Video). StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Assoc. Press, Ex-Minneapolis officer faces 12-plus years on murder count, StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Bjorhus, Derek Chauvin in custody,; other officers lay low, StarTribune (May 30, 2020); Walsh, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman faces new challenge in case against former Minneapolis police officer, StarTribune (May 31, 2020); Hill, Tiefenthaler, Triebert, Jordan, Willis & Stein, 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody, N.Y. Times (May 31, 2020).

[2] Montemayor, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison to take over case in Floyd killing, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Montemayor, Ellison center stage in case of officer charged with murder, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Four fired Minneapolis police officers charged, booked in killing of George Floyd, StarTribune (June 4, 2020); Jany & Xiong, BCA investigators in George Floyd killing sought access to police training and medical records, surveillance footage, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Editorial, Ellison can help build trust that justice will be served in Floyd case, StarTribune (June 2, 2020).

[3] Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Press Release Report (Case No. 2020-3700  (June 1, 2020);Click to access 2020-3700%20Floyd,%20George%20Perry%20Update%206.1.2020.pdf

Click to access 2020-3700%20Floyd,%20George%20Perry%20Update%206.1.2020.pdf

 

Hennepin County Medical examiner declares George Floyd death homicide, Fox9 News (June 1, 2020); Forliti & Karnowski, Hennepin County autopsy concludes Floyd died of homicide caused by restraint, neck compression, Pioneer Press (June 1, 2020); Navratil & Walsh, Hennepin Medical Examiner classifies George floyd’s death as ‘homicide,’ StarTribune (June 2, 2020). The Floyd attorney and family commissioned another autopsy that might become an issue in the criminal cases. (See Xiong, George Floyd’s family blasts county autopsy, calls for peaceful protests, StarTribune (June 2, 2020); Autopsy report shows Floyd tested positive for coronavirus, Assoc. Press (June 4, 2020); Walsh, George Floyd autopsy report released; he tested positive for COVID-19 in April, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).

[4]  Complaint, State v. Chauvin, #  27-CR-20-12646 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. (June 3, 2020).

[5] On June 8, the Hennepin County District Court approved a Stipulation and Order compelling the City of Minneapolis to amend the Police Policy and Procedure Manual to prohibit the use of all neck restraints and choke holds for any reason. (Court Approves Agreement on Police conduct Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Department of Human Rights, dwkcommentaries.com (June 9, 2020).

[6] Winston, Medical examiner Testifies Eric Garner Died of Asthma Caused by Officer’s Chokehold, N.Y. Times (May 15, 2019)

[7] Walsh, ‘World needed to see,’ says woman who took video of man dying under officer’s knee, StarTribune (May 26, 2020);

Walsh, Teen who recorded George Floyd video wasn’t looking to be a hero, her lawyer says, StarTribune (June 11, 2020).

[8] Grego, Prosecution of the four officers won’t be easy, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020); Dewan & Kovaleski, Thousands  of Complaints Do Little to Change Police Ways, N.Y. Times (May 30 & 31, 2020)(review of Minneapolis Police Department); Miller, Former prosecutors weigh case against Minneapolis officers, MPR (June 1, 2020) (interview of Susan Gaertner & Tom Heffelfinger); Hennessy & LeBlanc, 8:46: A number becomes a potent symbol of police brutality, StarTribune (June 4, 2020);Xiong, A timeline of events leading to George Floyd’s death as outlined in charging documents, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).

 

Ban on  Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department

On June 5, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced an agreement to ban Minneapolis police from using choke holds and neck restraints and to require officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was approved that same day by the Minneapolis City Council and signed by Mayor Jacob Frey, who said, “George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him – it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms. Today’s agreement with the state will help bring those layers of accountability. This unprecedented energy and momentum for police reform has left Minneapolis poised not just to address our shortcomings, but to become a model for shifting police culture and uprooting systemic racism.” [1]

The agreement is in the form of a Stipulation and Order to be signed by a Hennepin County District Judge after the Department files a lawsuit against the City, which a StarTribune article says happened in the afternoon of June 5, but which was not yet publicly available..[2] This is a result of the Department’s  June 2nd filing a civil rights charge against the City related to the George Floyd death and launching a general investigation of whether and how the Minneapolis Police Department has for the past 10 years engaged in discretionary practices toward people of color.[3]

This Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis as follows:

  1. BAN CHOKEHOLDS: “Within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual §§ 5-100 (Code of Conduct), 5-300 (Use of Force), and 5-311 (Use of Neck Restraints and Choke Holds) to prohibit the use of all neck restraints or choke holds for any reason.”
  2. DUTY TO REPORT: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint, in violation of this Stipulation and Order, has an affirmative duty to immediately report the incident while still on scene by phone or radio to their Commander or their Commander’s superiors.”
  3. DUTY TO INTERVENE: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint in violation of this Stipulation and Order, must attempt to safely intervene by verbal and physical means, and if they do not do so shall be subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.”
  4. CROWD CONTROL AUTHORIZATION: During protests and demonstrations, use of all crowd control weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Crowd control weapons include, but are not limited to, chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds. The Police Department shall contemporaneously document the person who authorized the use of crowd control weapons and retain such documentation for a period of not less than seven years. Accordingly, within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual § 5-313 to reflect that chemical agents, regardless of canister size, may be used during crowd control situations if authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Any other provisions of the Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual that identify the authorized use of other crowd control weapons must also be amended within 10 days of the Effective Date to reflect that use of such weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police.”
  5. TIMELY DISCIPLINE DECISIONS: For all recommendations that are pending as of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a decision on any recommendation from the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) within 45 calendar days of the Effective Date. For all recommendations of merit provided by the OPCR after the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, and for the duration of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a written memorandum explaining the basis their decision, including the relevant facts, policies and law supporting the decision, within 30 calendar days. If and when permitted by Minn. Stat. § 13.43, the decision and written memorandum will be immediately made available to the public via the City’s website and must also be available for physical inspection. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the City shall amend any city ordinances to conform to the requirements of this paragraph. The City shall also amend any city ordinances to fashion an appropriate remedy for the person filing the complaint if a determination on the OPCR’s recommendation of merit is not made within the 30 calendar day time period.”
  6. BODY WORN CAMERA FOOTAGE REVIEW: Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the OPCR will have the authority to proactively and strategically audit body worn camera (BWC) footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date, the City of Minneapolis will submit to the Department of Human Rights a plan for detailing how it intends to strategically utilize this audit function to identify discriminatory practices in policing, including officer misconduct.”

In addition, the Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis to do certain things to aid the Department’s current investigation as well as the following for “Building Toward Systemic Change:”

  1. “On or before July 30, 2020, the City Attorney shall prepare a report listing the State of Minnesota Laws that impede public transparency of police data and/or prevent the Mayor and Chief of Police and/or impede civilian oversight from disciplining and terminating police officers who do not adhere to Minneapolis Police Department policies and standards. “
  2. “The City shall prohibit all forms of retaliation, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person, including any City employee, who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation. Any violation of this provision shall be considered a material breach of the Order and may result in further enforcement action by MDHR.“

12.“All forms of retaliation, interference, intimidation, and coercion against a City employee or any member of the public who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation, are strictly prohibited. This prohibited conduct includes anyone employed by the City’s Police Department, or a representative of such employee, who intentionally aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces a person to engage in any of the practices forbidden by this Stipulation and Order.”

  1. “The City shall notify all employees that it is unlawful to intentionally obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the MHRA, MDHR’s Commissioner’s Charge investigation, or any order issued thereunder, or to resist, prevent, impede, or interfere with the Commissioner or any of the Commissioner’s employees or representatives in the performance of their duties.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, ““George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him — it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms.”

Presumably the Minneapolis Police Union has a right to intervene in this lawsuit and to oppose the proposed Stipulation and Order that would have to be ruled on by the district court.

We will wait to see whether they do so and what happens.

Reactions

These proposed revisions of the MPD Manual, in this blogger’s opinion, should be approved by the court after a hearing.

If and when approved by the court, however, they would only go into effect for subsequent actions by the police. Therefore, they are not relevant to the pending criminal cases about the killing of George Floyd. However, provisions of the existing MPD Manual will be relevant to these cases as discussed below.

Case Against Derek Chauvin[4]

That  Manual states that a “Choke Hold’s is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2 as ““Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.”(Manual sec. 5-302.).

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.” (Manual sec. 5-311.)

  • Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
  1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
  2. For life saving purposes, or;
  3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

Case Against Other Officers

The existing MPD Manual, under the heading “Duty To Intervene” states: “ Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(A).) And “It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(B).)

Conclusion

 Subsequent posts will cover the future court hearing and decision on the proposed changes to the MPD Manual while other posts will analyze the pending criminal cases and developments.

==============================

[1] Navratil,Tentative agreement would ban chokeholds, neck restraints by Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 5, 2020); Minneapolis to ban the use of chokeholds in response to George Floyd’s death, N.Y. Times (June 5, 2020); Governor Walz, Walz-Flanagan Administration, City of Minneapolis Agree on Immediate Changes to Minneapolis Police Department Policies (June 5, 2020); Chavez, Sanchez & Alonso, Minneapolis City council votes to ban chokeholds one day after George Floyd memorial, cnn.com (June 5, 2020); Collins, Chapman, Martinez & Li, Weekend George Floyd Protests Planned, Seeking Reforms, W.S.J. (June 5, 2020); ‘Layers of accountability’: Mayor Jacob Frey Signs Restraining Order Forcing Immediate Reforms in Mpls. Police Dept., CBS Minnesota (June 5, 2020).

[2] Stipulation and Order [unsigned], State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis (undated2020) (unsigned).

[3] Berkl & Navratil, Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 3, 2020);

Minn. Dep’t Human Rts., Civil Rights Investigation into Minneapolis Police Department (June 3, 3030); Governor Walz, Walz Administration’s Department of Human Rights Files Civil Rights Charge Against Minneapolis Police Department (June 2, 2020).

[4] MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020).

 

Two Other Minnesota Cities Celebrate Diversity

Previous posts have discussed the positive impacts of immigrants on the southwestern Minnesota city of Worthington (Micropolitan Pop. 20,500 (2018)).  Now two other Minnesota outstate cities (southeastern Austin and northwestern Roseau) have joined the chorus.

Austin, Minnesota[1]

The city of Austin, population 25,190 (2018 est.) is the county seat of southeastern Mower County bordering Iowa to the south. It is the corporate headquarters of Hormel Foods Corp., a Fortune 500 company that grew out of the town’s small late 19th century butcher shop owned by George A. Hormel. In early January this year the county board gave its unanimous consent to resettlement of refugees.

“From 1% minority population in 1980 to 31% today, . . . [Austin’s] transformation has been profound. Immigrants from six continents call Austin home. Schools count more minority students than white students, with 48 different languages being spoken in classrooms. A medley of ethnic dining options and food markets surround the Spam Museum along Main Street downtown.”

The city’s high school basketball team, the Packers, has helped draw this diverse community together. For example, the winning last-second basket in a recent game was scored by Agwa Nywesh, an Ethiopian-American born in Austin.  “Hundreds of students storm the court and took “turns hugging him. White kids, and African kids, and Asian kids, and Hispanic kids. Rich kids, poor kids. All celebrating. The big victories, they bring people together.”

The high school’s soccer program is also successful, becoming a state-tournament regular. “Hold up a mirror to this team and Austin’s diversity stares back. The roster includes a mix of white, Hispanic, Karenni and African players, and one teammate from Poland.”

In its “swelling school district, 37% of students speak a primary language other than English, double the statewide average. One in 12 children here was born outside of the United States, and many more were raised speaking their parents’ native language.” In response , “cultural liaisons were hired to be ‘success coaches’ for students of different ethnic communities. Santino Deng, the success coach for the African community, describes his job as ‘like 9-1-1.’”

Adjusting to these changes was not easy. According to the city’s mayor, Tom Stiehm, at first “you have that big blank space in your head and we just have a tendency to fill it with negative things. Once I got to learn the community and learn the people,” he changed. “It’s the wave of the future. You can either ride that wave or you can drown. I tell people, it doesn’t matter what you like. This is going to happen, and you better acclimate yourself to it.”

“A Welcome Center opened on Main Street, and Taste of the Nations events offered foods from different cultures, including hot dish from the ladies at the Lutheran church. The Hormel Foundation, which pours more than $9 million annually into Mower County with many initiatives, partnered with the YMCA to create a kid-friendly membership: $1 per year, per kid. One night, more than 700 kids — many of them Sudanese — checked into the Y within a four-hour period.”

“City leaders have begun including new voices in high-profile settings. The City Council established a rotating, honorary seat that goes to a leader from an immigrant community. That person doesn’t vote but serves for three months sitting alongside the city attorney and police chief at meetings.”

“Over time, immigrant families found their footing, becoming permanent citizens, taxpayers, homeowners, neighbors. Their kids filled schools, and immigrants opened businesses downtown.”

All of this prompted the state’s main newspaper, the StarTribune, to salute Austin in an editorial. “At a time when so much public discussion about immigrants and immigration is negative — with overblown, fear-inducing narratives about criminal activity, building walls and keeping people out — a Minnesota town is demonstrating how new Americans can strengthen a community.”

 Roseau, Minnesota[2]

The city of Roseau, population 2,660 (2018 est.), is the county seat of Roseau County bordering Canada. A predecessor of Polaris Industries started its history there in 1954 with a prototype of a snowmobile, and the town still has the company’s main manufacturing plant for snowmobiles, all-terrain-vehicles (“ATVs”) and other products along with the company’s R&D.

Roseau, however, has an aging, declining population like most other small communities in the state and as a result has a major challenge in meeting Polaris’ demand for workers. Steve Hine, a research economist for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said,  “There aren’t enough young people being born in Roseau County and staying in Roseau County to meet the needs of an expanding company like Polaris.”

A year ago Polaris hired a Puerto Rican recruiting firm to find a partial solution for a plant that consistently has about 70 job openings — and could add 70 more jobs if it could find the workers. In so doing, the company recognized that Puerto Rico might be a ready source of workers as it was suffering from hurricanes and more recently earthquakes and as its residents were U.S. citizens.

This recruiting effort has been successful. “On a recent weeknight, some 150 people crowded into Polaris’ fancy new lobby to celebrate the newcomers. A Puerto Rican made 80 pounds of pork butt. The manager of Roseau’s town ball team recruited Puerto Rican ballplayers. One Puerto Rican couple danced merengue. It was the biggest turnout Roseau’s Civic and Commerce Association has ever had.”

One of the newcomers, Ricardo Rojas, had been “a successful network systems engineer for a health insurer in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the mortgage on his $345,000 house was paid off, and his daughter was attending private school. Then he got laid off, . . . [and he] struggled to find steady work. . . . [His] home value plummeted. Jobs became even more scarce.” Now the job at Polaris “was a lifeline: double the pay of a manufacturing job back home, with full benefits, plus a better education for his 14-year-old daughter, who wants to be a doctor.”

Another Puerto Rican newcomer, Edwin Colón Pérez, “had worked at a medical manufacturing company in Puerto Rico, where he made $10.81 an hour. But production plummeted after the hurricane. Colleagues were laid off. Pérez has two children, 5 and 10, so he jumped at the opportunity to work 12-hour night shifts on Polaris’ manufacturing line, where he bends pipes in tube fabrication. He was excited to live in a place the high school principal describes as ‘Mayberry in the ’60s.’”

More generally, the Puerto Ricans “have filled the town’s housing — in apartments, in rental houses, in converted church basements — and brought diversity to this generations-long Scandinavian outpost.” They also “work at the AmericInn and at the bakery at Super One Foods. One Polaris employee hopes to open a restaurant featuring island specialties like mofongo and alcapurria. The wife of another hopes to start a school dance team. They worship at churches and drink beers at Legends Sports Pub and Grill. At a high school lip-sync competition, a new student rapped in Spanish a song he’d written. The 500 students erupted in applause.”

Rev. Steve Hoffer, pastor at Roseau Evangelical Covenant Church, welcomes the Puerto Ricans to the town. Along with six other churches, his church collected donated furniture and bedding, winter coats and used cars for the newcomers and bought plane tickets for families while Polaris paid for travel and temporary lodging for each worker. Said Pastor Hoffer,  “This is a win-win-win for everyone. This is a win for Polaris because companies up here in the northwest corner of Minnesota have a hard time finding employees. It’s a win for our community because it helps broaden the overall perspective of our town. There’s a world of people out there with very different experiences than people who have been here their entire lives. And it’s a win for the folks who are moving here, because this is an economic opportunity they simply didn’t have in Puerto Rico.”

Comments

These two towns remind one of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s recent consent to resettlement of refugees. In his letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the Governor said, “Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge. Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home.” Moreover, he said, “Refugees strengthen our communities. Bringing new cultures and fresh perspectives, they contribute to the social fabric of our state. Opening businesses and supporting existing ones, they are critical to the success of our economy. Refugees are doctors and bus drivers. They are entrepreneurs and police officers. They are students and teachers. They are our neighbors.” (Emphasis in original.)[3]

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[1] Austin, Minnesota, Wikipedia; Mower County, Minnesota, Wikipedia; Mower County Online; Hormel Foods Corp.;Minnesota Counties’ Actions on Refugee Resettlement, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 15, 2020); Scoggins, Austin’s True Colors, StarTribune (Feb. 23, 2020); Editorial, A salute to Austin—a welcoming Minnesota town, StarTribune (Mar. 2, 2020).

[2] Forgrave, Puerto Rican connection brings workers, diversity to Roseau, StarTribune (Mar. 7, 2020); Flores, Photography: Puerto Rican families make their home in Roseau, StarTribune (Mar. 8, 2020); Roseau, Minnesota, Wikipedia; Roseau County, Minnesota, Wikipedia; Roseau County, Welcome; Polaris Inc., Wikipedia; Polaris Industries, Inc.

[3]  Minnesota and Minneapolis Say “Yes” to Refugees, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 14, 2019).

 

Minnesota and Minneapolis Say “Yes” to Refugees   

As noted in a prior post, President Trump on September 28 issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consents to refugee resettlements for Fiscal 2020 and the States of Utah and North Dakota thereafter provided such  consents with three of the latter’s counties doing the same. We now await until the January 31, 2020 deadline to see what other states and localities do in response to this challenge.

Now the State of Minnesota and its City of Minneapolis have joined the affirmative choir.[1]

State of Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s December 13 letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stated, “Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge. Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home. In keeping with this proud history, I offer my consent to continue refugee resettlement in the State of Minnesota.”

“Refugees strengthen our communities. Bringing new cultures and fresh perspectives, they contribute to the social fabric of our state. Opening businesses and supporting existing ones, they are critical to the success of our economy. Refugees are doctors and bus drivers. They are entrepreneurs and police officers. They are students and teachers. They are our neighbors.” (Emphasis in original.)

The letter concluded, “I reject the intent of the President’s Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement, and we reserve our right to challenge the Executive Order’s requirements. As the Holiday Season approaches, we are reminded of the importance of welcoming all who seek shelter. The inn is not full in Minnesota.” (Emphasis added,)

The concluding sentence—“the Inn is not full in Minneapolis”—invoked the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph’s discovering that the inns in Bethlehem were full and having to stay in a manger. The sentence also is seen as a retort to Prsdient Trump’s declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border last April that the U.S. immigration system is overburdened and that “our country is full” and to Trump’s October campaign rally in Minneapolis when he criticized Minnesota’s acceptance of Somali refugees.

City of Minneapolis

Also on December 13, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously adopted a resolution noting that “the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis are home to some of the largest and most diverse populations of refugees and immigrants in the United States, adding to the economic strength and cultural richness of our community.” This document then resolved that “the Mayor and City Council do hereby reaffirm the City’s status as a Welcoming City, and a city that strongly supports resettling refugees without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or country of origin.” In addition, the “City of Minneapolis hereby pledges to continue to work diligently with resettlement organizations to accept refugees into the City and to improve refugee integration.” The final paragraph of the resolution directed “the City Clerk to send certified copies of this resolution to the President of the United States and the members of the federal delegation representing the State of Minnesota to the United States Congress to express the City’s strong support for the ongoing resettlement of refugees.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is expected to approve this resolution.

Other Minnesota Commentary

The State’s largest counties—Hennepin (Minneapolis) and Ramsey (St. Paul)—are expected to issue similar consents.

Also on December 13, the State’s Attorney General—Keith Ellison– joined a 12-state court amicus brief backing three refugee resettlement organizations that have sued the Trump administration over the president’s executive order requiring state and local consent to such resettlements. The states argue that the order violates federal law, interferes with state sovereignty, “undermines family reunification efforts, and disrupts the states’ abilities to deliver essential resources that help refugees contribute to the communities that welcome them.” According to Ellison, “Minnesotans want everyone to live with the same dignity and respect that they want for themselves. This includes the many refugees we have resettled here, who have given back many times over to the state, communities, and neighbors that have welcomed them. I’m challenging the President’s order on behalf of the people of Minnesota because it is illegal and immoral.”

A newspaper from western Minnesota— Alexandria Echo Press,  added, “The Minnesota Department of Human Services reports that 775 refugees have been placed in Minnesota in 2019, down significantly compared to previous years. And of those placed, the bulk of the refugees came from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo” plus 69 from Ukraine and 67 from Somalia.

A longer-term perspective was provided by the Pioneer Press from St. Paul. It said, “Minnesota has the country’s largest Somali and Karen populations, the second-largest Hmong population and one of the largest Liberian populations — all made up of people who fled their war-torn homelands as well as their descendants. According to State Department data, Minnesota ranks sixth in the country for refugee arrivals since 2001, accepting over 43,000 individuals.”

Conclusion

Congratulations to the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis for standing up for resettlement of refugees, each of whom already has established overseas to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that he or she, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”[2]

On December 17, this Minnesota action was endorsed in an editorial in the state’s leading newspaper, the StarTribune. It applauded “Gov. Tim Walz . . . for his forceful declaration of Minnesota values in his letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”  The editorial also noted, “Minnesota has a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants — particularly refugees,” who “have proved, overall, a bountiful investment.”[3]

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[1] Office of MN Governor, Governor Walz to Trump Administration: ‘The Inn is Not Full in Minnesota,’ (Dec. 13, 2019); Assoc. Press, Governor on Refugees: ‘The Inn Is Not Full in Minnesota,’ N.Y. Times (Dec. 13, 2019); Montemayor, Gov. Tim Walz to Trump on refugees: ‘The inn is not full in Minnesota,’ StarTribune (Dec. 13, 2019);

Minneapolis City Council, Resolution Supporting the resettlement of refugees in the City of Minneapolis (Dec. 13, 2019); Minnesota Attorney General, Attorney General Ellison defends refugees against President Trump’s unlawful executive order (Dec. 13, 2019); Ferguson, ‘The inn is not full’: Walz approves additional refugee placements in Minnesota, Alexandria Echo Press (Dec. 13, 2019); Magan, ‘The inn is not full’—Walz pledges support for refugees as MN joins lawsuit, Pioneer Press (Dec. 13, 2019).

[2] UNHCR, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (entered into force April 22, 1954  (Art. 1(A)(2).

[3] Editorial, Minnesota’s doors, hearts remain open to refugees, StarTribune (Dec. 17, 2019)