Is Albuquerque a sanctuary city or an immigrant-friendly city?
BY PETE DINELLI
Mayor Richard Berry is taking major issue with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ characterization of Albuquerque as a “sanctuary city.”
The truth is that Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city.”
But 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 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 “sanctuary city” issue 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, 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, U.S. Immigration and Customs agents (ICE) were allowed in to 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.”
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 for deportation no matter the offense or the guilt or innocence of people arrested.
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 Feb. 7, Berry announced the creation of the city department the “Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.”
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.”
He went on to say: “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.”
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.
It’s ironic that the right-wing administration of President 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.
“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, does not provide for city enforcement of federal immigration laws, and addresses city services including licensing and housing, the focus of which 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, the City Council enacted a symbolic memorial that reaffirmed Albuquerque’s “immigrant-friendly” status, but not as a “sanctuary city.”
Berry never objected to 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”.
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.
But now he objects to the Trump administration’s characterization that Albuquerque is a sanctuary city.
Berry might want to think about traveling to Washington, D.C., and having a little talk with Trump and Sessions to try and educate them on the difference between a “sanctuary city” and an “immigrant-friendly” city.
Then again, it’s doubtful Trump would ever welcome Berry to the White House seeing as Berry distanced himself from the president during the election by not even bothering to show up to welcome Trump to Albuquerque the two times he visited during the campaign.
All candidates running for mayor of Albuquerque and City Council need to articulate clearly their position on whether or not Albuquerque should be a sanctuary city, and if the policies of Berry should be continued.