By Sarah Doty
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
An Austin man's request that city council members sign a petition demanding the sheriff enter into an agreement with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws was rebuffed Monday.
Instead, the request by Samuel Johnson, an Austin man who's organized anti-immigration rallies and says he's a member of the National Socialist Movement, created a few heated moments at the meeting.
Johnson was there to announce a petition that he had created addressed to Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi concerning illegal immigration.
"We demand that the Mower County Sheriff's Department enter into a memorandum agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration laws," Johnson said, reading from the petition.
Previously, the sheriff has said this is a federal issue, but there is a program that trains local officers to enforce immigration law, Johnson said.
"I was just wondering if anyone here would like to be the first to (sign the petition)," Johnson asked the council.
Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm was the first to break the silence saying: "If anyone wants to sign it, speak up. I certainly don't want to sign it."
When Johnson asked why he wasn't going to sign the petition about "illegal aliens," Stiehm interrupted.
"This isn't a forum for that," Stiehm said. "If you want to say something, make your statement and then sit down, but we aren't having a forum."
"This isn't a forum," Johnson replied. "This is a petition for the city of Austin and the gang problem that is increasingly going on, and you can't deny that anymore. I think this is a clear issue here in the city and it needs to be taken care of now instead of hiding behind the city council and other local agencies."
Johnson left the meeting immediately after his statement.
After the meeting, Stiehm explained the comments he'd made to Johnson.
"The reason I don't support him is because that guy is a Nazi," Stiehm said. "We fought a war against the Nazis, and I am sure as heck not going to support anything they do."
In response to the petition, Amazi said: "They can demand anything they want."
Amazi said the sheriff's department has neither the manpower nor the budget to send deputies to the two-month, out-of-state training session, which is needed in order to work with ICE officials.
"I have looked into this issue," she said. "What the program does is it gives our deputies the ability to work with ICE officials, it doesn't give them independent status. If they want to give me the funding, then sure. But even with that said, they still have to work with ICE officials. We cannot enforce federal laws."