Governor Pawlenty fired a first shot, vowing to fight in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Mike Hatch followed with a spot blaming the Pawlenty administration for the influx of immigrant workers.
In his latest TV ad Mike Hatch stands before a row of trailers along a rural road and describes the conditions of the mobile homes, which are apparently occupied by undocumented workers.
“I’m outside a food plant in rural Minnesota. The workers live in these trailers behind this fence, 20 bunks to a trailer,” the Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor says to the camera.
“It’s gonna be a hundred degrees today and the windows are boarded up.”
The ad is date stamped “July 30, 2006 Greater Minnesota.”
Mike Hatch told KARE 11 that he taped the ad last summer near the Seneca Foods plant in Montgomery, Minnesota and held the ad. He was waiting for Governor Pawlenty to raise the immigration issue first, which he did this week.
The new Pawlenty ad employs a female voice, speaking over dramatic music. A pair of legs is seen walking through weeds at night.
“A bill has been introduced to give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. We don’t even give that to people from Iowa.”
It’s a reference to the Minnesota Dream Act, which immigrant rights groups and students have rallied for the last two legislative sessions. The ad doesn’t impress Senator Sandy Pappas, D-St Paul, who sponsored the Dream Act.
“I just think it’s sad to use kids who want higher education in a political way,” Pappas told KARE 11.
“Trying to create fear that somehow giving kids a college education is gonna ruin your life. These kids they graduated from Minnesota high schools, they went to Minnesota high schools. They’re Minnesota kids. They should be able to pay in-state tuition.”
Pappas got the bill through the Senate in 2005, but it was removed when Governor Pawlenty threatened to veto the entire bill. Another threatened veto in 2006 killed the Dream Act in committee.
“Texas passed this under George Bush and he signed it. It’s not really that controversial in a lot of states. California, New York, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska and others have passed it.”
At a news conference Thursday in Saint Paul Governor Pawlenty insisted he’s not playing politics with the issue, that there’s a real possibility it could become law – despite the fact that Mike Hatch opposes it as well.
“I had to threaten to veto the whole bill to get it out, so it was a near miss two years ago,” the Governor told the Capitol Press Corps.
“We had to express opposition with a veto last year to get it out. So it’s not an issue that has gone away. The pressure continues.”
But the Governor had far less to say about his immigration ad, and much more to say about Mike Hatch’s entry into immigration politics.
“Mike Hatch’s most recent ad is a new low, even for his standards,” said the Republican Governor seeking reelection.
“He’s implying that companies can hire illegal immigrants in Minnesota because of something the state didn’t do. That’s not accurate.”
In the TV ad Hatch speaks of illegal immigrant workers who were paid in cash on a Minneapolis hotel remodeling project. He then puts the blame on the current administration.
“Companies can hire illegal immigrants because Governor Pawlenty’s labor department won’t enforce the law,” Hatch says in the TV spot.
Pawlenty says that’s misleading, and is demanding that the Hatch campaign pull the spot.
“Our labor department doesn’t have the authority currently to take enforcement action. That is the federal government’s sole authority,” Pawlenty told reporters.
But Hatch, speaking by phone from a campaign road trip to Duluth, said his ad isn’t about US immigration laws. It’s about companies that break Minnesota state laws regarding wages, overtime and workers compensation by paying workers under the table or off the books.
“If you enforce the labor laws and the health laws you won’t have an immigration problem,” Hatch told KARE 11.
“The only reason why you have an illegal immigration is because you can exploit them and violate the laws and they can’t file a complaint with the government.”
Hatch said he’s perfectly justified in blaming the Pawlenty administration.
“This governor has all the tools at his disposal to address the illegal immigration issue through labor laws, through health laws, and he has failed to do so.”
Pawlenty also took Hatch to task for standing in front of mobile homes, describing deplorable living conditions and yet failing to report it to local health or housing authorities.
“Instead he gets out of his car and in Geraldo like fashion attempts to put together a cheesy photo to convince us that something’s amiss,” complained Pawlenty.
When asked why he didn’t phone in a complaint Hatch explained that unions and immigrant worker groups had already notified the state Department of Health and Department of Labor and Industry. He said the reason he knew about the trailers in Montgomery is because his office was contacted after the state agencies failed to respond adequately to the complaints.
“They brought him affidavits that these people were paid in cash, that there were OSHA violations. Only the Department of Health, only the Department of Labor has that kind of authority.”
According to the Associated Press Hatch was alerted to the living conditions in the Montgomery plant when he met with a migrant workers rights group. The AP reported the meeting was arranged by Mark Schultz of the Land Stewardship Project.
“They weren’t getting anything from their meetings and phone calls with state government,” Schultz told the AP.
According to the AP, the Department of Health looked into a complaint in 2004 that some Seneca workers were living in cars, but Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said it was unfounded.
By John Croman, KARE 11 News.
Copyright KARE 11 and Associated Press 2006