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Santa Fe Mayor Renews Commitment To Being A 'Sanctuary City'


As part of his immigration platform, Donald Trump has said he would withdraw federal money for law enforcement in what's known as sanctuary cities. There's no set definition for sanctuary cities, but broadly speaking, these are cities that as a matter of law or policy do not under most circumstances help the federal government enforce immigration laws.

This week, Santa Fe's mayor, Javier Gonzales, joined several mayors around the country from Chicago to New York to Seattle. They pledged their cities will remain safe places for people without documentation. And Mayor Gonzales joins us now. Welcome to the show.

JAVIER GONZALES: Hi, Kelly. It's good to be with you.

MCEVERS: So earlier this week, you came out and announced that you will not reverse course on your city being a sanctuary city. Why did you feel compelled to say something publicly?

GONZALES: Well, it goes to the core values of Santa Fe being a welcoming city for longer than 400 years to immigrants from all over the world. It goes to the fact that I have seen firsthand families, children in schools, teachers, people who've gone off to fight for our country want to be productive members of our community. They want to be Americans, but for a broken immigration system at the federal level, they've not been able to get legal status.

And so we have to do everything we can at the city level to make sure that families who are living in fear now are protected and that we don't use any local law enforcement resources to do really what the federal government's job is, and that's to check immigration status.

MCEVERS: So you do have a lot of immigrants living in your city.

GONZALES: We have quite a bit. We estimate about 14 percent of our city is made up of new immigrants.

MCEVERS: What exactly is the policy in Santa Fe on people who are here illegally?

GONZALES: It's pretty straightforward. Police officers will not do the federal government's job and ask for status. What they will do - if there's a violent criminal request by the federal government that's out there - a warrant - and they find somebody in our community, they will go after them. And they will work with ICE to detain them and to fully prosecute them under the law.

MCEVERS: We should say ICE is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

GONZALES: Correct.

MCEVERS: I mean critics of policies like yours, of this idea of sanctuary cities, say that makes cities a magnet or a haven for people who are here illegally and who want to commit crimes. Maybe it's helpful to give us a sense of the share of the crimes that are committed in your city by these kinds of people.

GONZALES: Well, the critics are wrong. It's more rhetoric than it is fact. Santa Fe sees spikes in crimes, and we see downward trends in crimes that follows regular patterns that occur that don't have anything to do with this broken immigration system.

MCEVERS: Donald Trump says that on his first day in office, he will cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities. How much does Santa Fe depend on federal grants to carry out things like law enforcement?

GONZALES: Look. It makes up 2 percent of our budget. It's significant - $6 million. It goes towards supporting senior services, our airport, affordable housing for people. It would have an impact.

MCEVERS: So you're saying that 2 percent $6 million that goes to things other than law enforcement, the kind of federal funding that you could see cut...

GONZALES: Sure. Community Development Block Grants that support access to homeownership, senior Meals on Wheels - many people in our community rely on federal assistance to be fed daily. This would have a huge impact. If it does get to that point, we're going to work hard to make sure we stretch our own resources to cover those costs so that people won't be left behind, but it's the wrong policy.

MCEVERS: Because I can just imagine a scenario where this federal funding does get cut - it affects people's lives. And they come to you, and they say - they want to put the pressure on you to get some of that federal funding back.

GONZALES: This is a test of our values. Every leader across the country will have to make a decision about, what are we going to stand for? And so there is a real choice that I'm prepared to make and be held accountable for. We'll work to find the funds if it gets to that point to make sure that people aren't left behind.

But I've got to believe that the president-elect who said his primary focus was to create jobs in our country, who has said that he wants to heal and move forward - that he'll see this as a very divisive, hate-driven type of rhetoric that does not allow our country to be great again. If anything, it further divides us and it moves us in the wrong direction.

MCEVERS: Javier Gonzales is the mayor of Santa Fe. Thank you very much.

GONZALES: Thank you for allowing me to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.