Kate Knuth speaks at a mayoral candidate forum at Cedar Field Park in Minneapolis in August, 2021. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

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With less than one week to go before the city election, Minneapolis mayoral candidate Kate Knuth released a comprehensive immigration policy proposal Thursday morning.

The proposal includes urging the City Council to pass a “Minneapolis Dream Act,” blocking federal dollars from reaching certain immigration enforcement programs, and creating a city task force focused on immigration rights.

Knuth said her campaign came up with a comprehensive immigration agenda because immigrants in Minneapolis are “important to the success of our city.”

“Whether East African, Latino, Hmong, or Afghan coming soon, we get to make and remake Minneapolis with all the cultural dynamism that new immigrants bring,” Knuth said. 

The proposal is arguably the most detailed immigration platform from candidates running for Minneapolis mayor. Knuth, 40, a former state representative, is one of the leading mayoral candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey. 

The campaign developed the proposal over the past two months, said Faiza Ahmed, Knuth’s campaign manager. Knuth drew on ideas from Faiza, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia; campaign chair Nestor Gomez Jimenez, who is an immigrant Mexico; and outgoing Minneapolis City Council member Alondra Cano, whose parents came to the U.S. from Mexico as undocumented immigrants. 

Faiza said immigration policy decisions often leave out a large subset of immigrants. 

“We only think about the citizens and the people with papers, and don’t think too much about the new immigrants that maybe are here with their green card or here without papers,” Faiza said. “And they need to feel valued in our city and make sure that their safety is at the top of mind.”

Knuth’s policy addresses DACA recipients and ‘sanctuary city’ status

Knuth said her immigration policy includes pressing the City Council to pass a municipal “Dream act.” This would provide money for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to help pay the fees for reapplying to the program. DACA recipients must reapply to the federal program every two years, which currently costs $495. Knuth’s proposed Dream act would also provide DACA recipients money for college and support for work and internships. 

Gomez Jimenez said the proposal comes from his own experience as a DACA recipient, as well as from more than a dozen immigrants of different statuses who helped weigh in. He said DACA recipients aren’t seeking enough support from the federal or state governments.

“This is about creating equitable opportunities in areas that have failed systemically,” he said. 

Knuth also pledges to expand Minneapolis’s status as a “sanctuary city.” Minneapolis currently bars police officers and city personnel from asking individuals about their immigration status. Knuth wants to expand on this by blocking federal immigration enforcement dollars from the Department of Homeland Security going to programs like Countering Violent Extremism. 

Knuth’s proposal would also create a task force from the mayor’s office to engage with immigrants in the city, and “better understand the needs of our residents.” The task force would audit the city’s services and work to “remove all barriers to participation from immigrant and refugee communities.” It would also work expanding on citizenship education for the city’s permanent residents.

Immigration proposals from other mayoral candidates

Sheila Nezhad and AJ Awed, who are also challenging Frey from the left, agreed on many of the policies in Knuth’s proposal. For example, all three challengers say they would expand the staff at the city’s existing Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. 

And both Nezhad and AJ say immigrant rights are personal issues fir them. Nezhad’s father is an immigrant from Iran and AJ came to the U.S. from Somalia at a young age as a refugee. 

But the candidates criticized Knuth’s proposal in different ways. (Frey’s re-election campaign did not return Sahan Journal’s request for comment before press time.)

Nezhad, for example, said her campaign has door-knocked almost 30,000 households. Half the people her campaign has reached are not aware that there’s an upcoming city election, Nezhad said. 

“I do become wary of politicians who come out with this hyper-detailed plan, because that means the input of those 15,000 households, and probably many more, are not being included in these plans,” Nezhad said. 

Instead, Nezhad is pledging her administration would include a “participatory budgeting process.” Under this system, the city’s residents, including documented and undocumented immigrants, would work on placing their own priorities in the city’s yearly budget. 

(Faiza emphasizes that Knuth’s immigration proposal came from months of feedback from immigrants that connected with the campaign.)

AJ is campaigning on creating a deputy mayor position that would focus on advocating for immigrants on the state level. 

AJ added that mayors and citywide elected officials don’t have the power to get involved in issues like immigration status proceedings, because those fall under federal jurisdiction. He said that Knuth’s proposals make it appear otherwise. 

“This is again the type of leadership that does the bait-and-switch on voters,” AJ said. “To get their hopes up and ultimately disappoint them when they know that they have actual constraints when they get into office.”

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...