The St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to make it easier for non-citizens who are victims of major crimes to apply for asylum.
“It’s incredibly important to codify our actions in this situation,” said City Council President Amy Brendmoen.
The “U Visas,” which are applied for through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, require applicants to submit a certification form from local law enforcement identifying them as crime victims who have cooperated with police to identify an assailant.
Until recent months, the Minneapolis Police Department approved most requests for certification, while the St. Paul Police Department did not.
Under St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, St. Paul has approved 90 percent of its certification requests since January.
On Wednesday, the city council voted 7-0 to clarify the application process in city ordinances, with the expectation that most requests will be reviewed within days.
The goal, in part, is “to reiterate to our police department that we do support the U Visa process,” said City Council Member Chris Tolbert.
“The climate is hostile enough to our immigrant neighbors … that anything we can do to make it easier for them is a big deal,” said Council Member Rebecca Noecker.
“We live in a time where families are being separated, and our government plays a role in that,” said City Council Member Dai Thao. “You hear about that happening in third world countries where there’s a lot of chaos, but it’s happening here.”
Said Council Member Jane Prince, “The East Side wouldn’t be the East Side without our immigrant communities.”