Mayor Berry is taking major issue with US Attorney General Jeff Session’s characterization of Albuquerque as a “sanctuary city”.
(See August 4, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “Berry: Albuquerque not a ‘sanctuary city’; Mayor fires back at Sessions after AG threatens to withhold federal funds”)
The Trump Administration is threatening to withhold federal law enforcement resources from the high crime cities of Albuquerque, Baltimore, Maryland, and the cities of Stockton and San Bernardino, California.
All four cities have applied for federal funding for a crime fighting assistance program.
The dispute stems from the refusal by local police jurisdictions to house and detain arrestees who are foreign nationals until immigration agents can deport them.
It is the federal government’s responsibility to assume the cost of detaining and deporting those in the country illegally.
The City of Albuquerque does not have a jail.
It is the Bernalillo County Detention Center that houses all arrestees awaiting arraignments, trials and defendants convicted of misdemeanors and serving their jail time.
The truth is that Albuquerque has never been a “Sanctuary City”.
Mayor Berry needs to assume some responsibility for helping to create the false impression that Albuquerque is a “sanctuary city”.
Berry did so to get elected the first time in 2009 and by his subsequent acts and words.
It’s ironic that the right wing administration of Donald Trump is declaring Albuquerque a sanctuary city when eight years ago our right wing Republican Mayor said it was not and even took action to assist immigration laws enforcement.
“SANCTUARY CITY” VERSUS “IMMIGRANT FRIENDLY” CITY
A “sanctuary city” denies cooperation with federal immigration officials and does not use city law enforcement resources to identify or apprehend illegal immigrants and does not use city law enforcement resources to enforce immigration laws.
An “immigrant friendly” city is one that implements “welcoming city” policies and does not provide for city enforcement of federal immigration laws and addresses city services including licensing and housing and the focus is to create inclusive, immigrant friendly and welcoming policies.
In 2001 the Albuquerque City Council enacted a resolution that declared Albuquerque an “immigrant friendly” city.
Albuquerque’s “immigrant friendly” designation welcomes immigrants to the city and is largely symbolic.
In February, 2017, the City Council enacted a symbolic memorial that reaffirmed that Albuquerque’s “immigrant friendly” status, but not as a “sanctuary city”.
BERRY’S 2009 ELECTION PLOY
It has been mostly right-wing Republicans that have ramped up the rhetoric on immigration in the past and it was done in 2009 by none other than candidate for Mayor Richard Berry.
Berry used the issue of “sanctuary city” in 2009 to get elected the first time with his supporters driving a vehicle around the city with a billboard mounted on it.
The roving billboard condemned then Mayor Marty Chavez for making Albuquerque a “sanctuary city” for immigrants.
After his election in 2009, Mayor Berry declared that Albuquerque was no longer a sanctuary city.
In 2010, Berry ordered the implementation of a policy that screened every person who is arrested, no matter the offense, such as misdemeanor DWI, shoplifting, drug possession, to see if the person is in the country legally.
By Berry’s orders, US Immigration and Customs agents (ICE) were allowed into the Albuquerque Prisoner Transport Center to screen virtually all people arrested and brought in by the Albuquerque Police Department and determine their immigration status.
In 2010, Berry said, “If convicted, they will serve their sentence and could be deported. I’m not looking at this as an immigration issue, but more as a public safety issue,” said Berry at the time.
The truth is once ICE determines a person is not in this country legally, it will take that person into custody and institute deportation action.
What Berry endorsed was allowing ICE into city holding facilities to screen people is the deportation of people no matter the offense and no matter their guilt or innocence of people arrested and taken into custody by APD.
Now that “sanctuary city” status has become an issue, Berry points out that the desk at the transport center is rarely staffed by ICE and that the detention center is managed and operated by Bernalillo County and not the City of Albuquerque.
CITY OFFICE OF IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE AFFAIRS
On February 7, 2017, Mayor Berry announced the creation of the city department the “Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs”. (See Albuquerque Journal, “City unveils immigrant affairs office”, Metro & NM, Section C-1, February 8, 2017.)
The office is intended to serve Albuquerque’s immigrant and refugee community by acting as a point of contact with other agencies that serve them.
Berry said the new city department will help immigrants and refugees without regard to their legal immigration status and that it will help allay the fears of people in Albuquerque’s immigrant and refugee community.
When asked if the office would serve people who lack legal immigration status, Berry said “It is not our job to check on that. That’s not what this office is about.”
Berry said “There has always been rhetoric from the left and right regarding immigration … But I do not think it has ever been ramped up to the level we’ve seen most recently”.
Berry never objected to President Trump ramping things up when Trump said “When Mexico is sending its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume are good people”.
Mayor Berry has never voiced objections or concerns to Trump’s Muslim travel ban nor the wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico.
Berry now objects to the Trump administration’s characterization that Albuquerque is a sanctuary city.
Mayor Berry may want to think about traveling to Washington, DC and having a little talk with President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to try an educate them on the difference between a “sanctuary city” and an “immigrant friendly” city.
Then again it is very doubtful that President Trump would ever welcome Mayor Berry to the White House seeing as Mayor Berry distanced himself from the President during the presidential election by not even bothering to show up to welcome Trump to Albuquerque the two times Trump visited during the campaign.
All candidates running for Mayor of Albuquerque and City Council need to articulate clearly their position on if Albuquerque should be a sanctuary city and if the policies of mayor Berry should be continued.