The Current

Santa Fe mayor defies Trump's crackdown on immigrant 'sanctuary cities'

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has set up a showdown with the dozens of American cities actively sheltering undocumented immigrants. But a lot of those cities have vowed not to back down.
Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales says he will stand up to U.S. president-elect Trump's crackdown on sanctuary cities because it's based on hatred. ( Vucci/AP)

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There's no single definition of what it means to be a so-called "sanctuary city", but the list includes Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco — local jurisdictions that shelter undocumented immigrants, to varying degrees.

In a speech, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end sanctuary cities "that have resulted in many needless deaths," and plans to cut federal funding to these cities in his first 100 days in office.

Since the U.S. election, at least three dozen cities, including Chicago and New York have formally reaffirmed their sanctuary city status, including Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Javier Gonzales, the mayor of Sante Fe and the former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico speaks to The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti about his position.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Anna Maria Tremonti: After Mr. Trump's election you joined several mayors across the U.S. to say that Santa Fe would remain a sanctuary city. Why is that important?

Javier Gonzales: Anytime a mayor can stand up and speak for the values that make their communities … You have to do so, especially in light of policy that would disrupt many families. So one, I wanted to make sure that we stood up and and stood against any policy that would be harmful and two, it really comes down to privatization of local law enforcement resources.

'Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars,' says U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

AMT: Practically speaking what does it mean to be a sanctuary city then?

JG: Well for Santa Fe, it means that our police officers, they don't ask for status. If you're stopped for a minor traffic violation all you really are asked for is your driver's licence.

AMT: Mr. Trump has threatened to cut federal funding to all jurisdictions who do stand up against this in his first 100 days, what would that mean to your city?

JG: Specifically it would mean $6.2 million dollars. Those are monies that go into helping us provide home ownership … it supports warm meals for many of our senior citizens and most vulnerable, it provides critical access to infrastructure funds, our federal airport.

 Immigrants living in our communities want to live peacefully.- Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales:

There's no doubt that there would be an impact but there comes a point where the values of a town are far greater and important to fight for than any loss of federal funds that might come as a result of standing up to a policy that is divisive, and certainly that is many times driven by hatred.

AMT: Donald Trump … said that sanctuary cities have resulted in needless deaths. What do you make of that argument.?

JG: It's an unfortunate statement because it's not true. There have been study after study that have shown that there has not been a rise in crime due to the presence of immigrants. Immigrants living in our communities want to live peacefully.

'Sanctuary policies basically create sanctuaries for criminals'

Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow with the Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank that has been influential in shaping Donald Trump's decisions since the election, supports depriving federal funding to sanctuary cities.

AMT: Well I'm curious to know what you're thinking? You just heard the case for sanctuary cities, what concerns do you have about them?
Hans A. von Spakovsky (© David Hills/The Heritage Foundation)

Hans A. von Spakovsky: Well I would say two things about what mayor Gonzales said. From a policy standpoint he's showing an utter contempt for the rule of law and that is the enforcement of federal immigration law, and the rule of law is something that this country is based on.

But second, his claims that the sanctuary policies do not lead to crime is completely false and I'll give you an example of what I mean. One study based on department of homeland security records showed that in a just an eight month period, in 2014 more than 8,000 deportable aliens were released by sanctuary jurisdictions, 3,000 of them were felons. Sixty-two per cent had a prior criminal record. 

So sanctuary policies basically create sanctuaries for criminals.

AMT: Statistically doesn't it show that some American citizens actually still kill more people than any undocumented immigrant?

HS: There are literally thousands of criminal aliens with long criminal histories who are going to continue to murder, assault, rape, commit property crimes — none of those crimes would be happening if they were not in the country.

AMT: Do you agree with Mr. Trump's view that federal funding should be cut to these cities or counties or other jurisdictions?

HS: Oh yeah, I think it should. Specifically the department of justice has all kinds of grants that it gives out to try to assist local law enforcement. When these cities are obstructing law enforcement why in the world should they be receiving federal funds.

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post which also includes a look at the history and politics of sanctuary cities

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar and Kristin Nelson.