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Associated Press, Published April 14 2011

Dayton drops Pawlenty directive on immigration

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton won't revive a directive from his Republican predecessor requiring the state to participate in enforcing federal immigration law, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press Thursday.

Spokeswoman Katie Tinucci said the Democratic governor decided against reviving the 2008 executive order from former Gov. Tim Pawlenty because it wasn't necessary. The directive, which expired last week, had required state cooperation with federal authorities in areas such as customs enforcement and fraudulent documents.

Tinucci said the directive wasn't needed to enable state law enforcement agents to cooperate with federal authorities, so Dayton made a practical decision not to keep it.

"It doesn't direct any specific action that we're not doing already," Tinucci said.

Pawlenty, now exploring a presidential campaign, made headlines when he announced the executive order and related immigration proposals as part of a get-tough approach toward illegal immigration three years ago. He said at the time that the state needed to do more to enforce immigration laws.

The order required state agencies for public safety, corrections and commerce to work with federal officials by cross-designating state agents to enforce immigration and customs law, combing the prison population to identify illegal immigrants and participating in efforts to uncover document fraud, gang activity and child predators.

Tinucci said Dayton consulted with Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman, legal counsel and advocates for immigrants as he weighed whether to keep all or parts of the order.

Dohman wasn't immediately available for comment.

Among those consulted was state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, who praised Dayton for dropping the directive. She said immigrant communities saw it as a political move by Pawlenty as he built a national profile.

"We're still questioning why Pawlenty did that. We think that it was for — you know, he was planning to run for president," she said.

Tinucci said two state troopers received cross-designation training to enforce immigration laws during Pawlenty's administration, which ended in January. She said the state still can send agents to the training without the executive order, but there are no plans to do so.