If you believe “All Are Welcome Here,” don’t vote for Lori Swanson

For many Americans, immigration issues like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the Trump administration’s travel ban, and the family separation policy rank as some of the most complex and emotional political debates of our time.

But for the children and families I represent, these issues are anything but theoretical.

As an immigration attorney, I work every day with men and women who worry about whether they will be able to keep their jobs and work permits, young adults who worry that they will not be able to stay in a country that is the only home they’ve ever known, and, yes, children who have been cruelly separated from their parents. I am proud to be their representative in the complicated and often chaotic immigration process — but what they really need are more champions who will work to change these policies in elected office.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson claims that she’ll be just such a champion as Governor. But she has had the opportunity to stand up for immigrants in the position she has held for more than a decade. And she has failed.

Swanson has repeatedly bragged that she was one of two Attorneys General to sue the Trump administration after it issued its racist travel ban. But Minnesota left that lawsuit on March 16, 2017, when an amended complaint was filed with a federal court in Washington state.

So I was surprised to receive a mailer from the Swanson campaign crowing about her “victory” over the Trump administration on the travel ban, a victory, the mailer boasted, that was not overturned by the Supreme Court. Yes, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that case. But this, too, is misleading: the case that went to the Supreme Court — Trump v. Hawaii — was a completely different lawsuit, one that Swanson never joined.

Similarly, a group called “Alliance for Jobs Committee” sent out a mailer in support of Swanson that also mislead about her record on immigration issues.

For example: One mailer states (correctly) that Minnesota joined a lawsuit over DACA in California. But it claims that “the judge in that case issued an order to stop the deportation.” This is wrong. There were no deportations at issue in that case. And, what’s more, Minnesota was removed from that lawsuit on procedural grounds (for now — we have the chance to get back in.) Like the mailer, Swanson’s website doesn’t mention this. Nor has her office filed any documents to re-join the lawsuit in the future.

The mailer also implies that Swanson’s work resulted in the reunification of separated families, pointing out that she was “one of the first lawyers in court to demand the (separated) children be returned to their parents” and that “President Trump must now reunite those families.” But the lawsuit Swanson joined is still in its early stages. The reason the Trump administration has been ordered to reunite the families is because of a different lawsuit filed by the ACLU — one Lori Swanson had nothing to do with. Indeed, it would be months after the crisis began before Swanson’s office took any action at all.

One more example: On July 23, Swanson announced that she was joining 19 other states in opposition to the termination of the DACA program. But, contrary to news reports, this didn’t mean that Minnesota was actually joining a lawsuit. Swanson was merely adding Minnesota’s name to a brief being filed by other Attorneys General who had done the real work of litigation. And when local advocates asked Swanson to join a similar brief opposing a similar program called DAPA that would have allowed certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and other legal residents to obtain work permits, she refused to do so.

Even today, when asked during the MPR Candidate Forum if she would support driver’s licenses for Minnesota’s undocumented residents, she said she would create a “working group” to study it — while the other two candidates said they would support it now.

Perhaps Lori Swanson’s heart is in the right place when it comes to immigration policy. Perhaps, as Governor, she will seize the opportunity to lead on issues where she has failed to lead as Attorney General.

But my clients have had enough promises broken. And, as their advocate, I have had enough of watching politicians say all the right things when it comes to issues like DACA, the travel ban, and the family separation policy — and then disappear when it’s time for the real work of making change to be done.

The fact is that Lori Swanson hasn’t been the crusading advocate for immigrants she claims to have been as Attorney General — and Minnesotans who care about these issues shouldn’t trust her to be one as Governor, either.

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