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Steele County Sheriff’s Race 2022

Sheriff's election, owatonna, steele county, lon thiele, helget
Candidates share views on immigration law
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

In an effort to keep our readers as informed as possible about the upcoming election and the choices they are offered, we are asking the candidates of several races to weigh in on the issues.

That includes the race for Steele County Sheriff. Incumbent Sheriff Lon Thiele is facing challenger Darrin Helget, who is currently a deputy sheriff for the SCSO.

Every week through Nov. 2, we will publish the answer to a weekly question, designed just for the sheriff candidates. There will be a word limit; the only editing we’ll do is if the answer is too long.

We sincerely hope this is beneficial to you, our reader, about the issues affecting Steele County, where the candidates stand and how they may address those concerns.

Here's this week's question:

Immigration has been in the news again recently, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a plane full of immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Some say it was a publicity stunt; DeSantis said it was "the humane thing to do." Minnesota lawmakers have not passed a bill to make this a sanctuary state, though two counties – Hennepin and Nobles – will not detain undocumented immigrants once they're released from state custody.

Recognizing that you need to uphold the laws of the city, state, and country, we're asking for your opinion of the level of involvement in any such law-making:

What role should local law enforcement play in immigration law? Answers were limited to 300 words.

Steele County Deputy Darrin Helget: Law Enforcement’s role in immigration law should be to assist as needed. Laws are made by the legislature-state and/or federal. Law Enforcement’s role is to enforce the law, not pick and choose what law or laws to enforce.

Most commonly, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will place a detainer on an individual that is already in law enforcement custody on another charge, such as a DWI, assault or one of many other charges. The detainer simply notifies the law enforcement agency that the Department of Homeland Security plans to assume custody of the individual once they are no longer subject to the local agency’s detention. There is also a time frame, 48 hours excluding Saturday, Sunday, or holidays, in which ICE must take custody, if not, the law enforcement agency is required to release the person.

In this type of case, the Steele County Sheriff’s Office should work with our federal partners. Other instances, such as locating subjects in the US illegally, would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele: The enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws has received a significant amount of attention lately.

Under a federal program called “Secure Communities,” all arrestees are fingerprinted and ran through a federal database which checks their criminal record and immigration status. The Federal agency that regulates immigration is called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Some law enforcement executives believe that it is appropriate for state and local law enforcement to play an active role in immigration enforcement because individuals who are in the country illegally have violated the laws. It should be noted the Fifth Amendment entitles foreign nationals to due process in deportation proceedings. The Fourteenth Amendment affirms the rule of citizenship by birth within the territory.

With some clarity and the separation of powers, the legislature authors and creates the laws, and then we as public safety servants enforce the laws.

I also have the honor of representing Steele County on two nationally recognized Executive Boards. I’m the 4th Vice President of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association Executive Board, and the 3rd Vice President of the FBI-LEEDA Executive Board.

The mission of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association is to advance legislation for the betterment of the public. We will study, prepare, and present to the legislature such changes or additions to law that we feel are concerns to public safety. We have these types of discussion regularly and we’re obligated to upholding the laws.

As Sheriff, I took an oath to uphold these laws. I’m statutorily charged and obligated to enforce state law and local ordinances. The issue of immigration is a Federal law. I shall ensure that I and my employees, in the performance of our duties, will enforce and administer the law according to the state statutes so that equal protection of the law is guaranteed to everyone.

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