ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque is a step closer to enacting policies that would bar federal immigration agents from prisoner transport centers without a warrant and prevent city workers, including police, from asking about people’s immigration status.
The city council’s vote to make Albuquerque more “immigrant friendly” Monday follows a recent federal court ruling that bars the U.S. Justice Department from favoring cities that cooperate with immigration officials for policing grants over cities with so-called sanctuary laws, which limit how local authorities’ cooperate with federal immigration officers.
It still must be signed by Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat who took office late last year. Here’s a look at what the bill’s sponsors say about it and who it impacts.
Sponsors of the measure have attempted to underscore that the bill is simply a reaffirmation of the long-held stance on immigrants in New Mexico’s largest city, which is home to a quarter of the population in the rural border state.
They have avoided saying they are pushing for sanctuary city policies, with the argument that the term “sanctuary” implies the city will not hand over any immigration information in its possession to federal authorities.
Instead, the Albuquerque measure takes a different approach, according to Council Member Pat Davis, a bill sponsor.
“What our bill simply says is, ‘We comply with the federal law that requires us to turn over information if we have it,'” Davis said, who is also running for Congress as a Democrat. “We’re just not going to have it.”
The term “sanctuary city” has become a flashpoint in the debate over how local governments cooperate with President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration enforcement.
Former Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, pushed back against notions that Albuquerque was a sanctuary city, and allowed immigration agents to use a small space within the Prisoner Transport Center to check the immigration status of people arrested by police.
The new Albuquerque resolution bans immigration officers from any non-public area of city property without a warrant that expressly gives them access to the area.
Proponents of the measure argue immigrants bolster the state’s economy. A draft of the resolution cites studies showing immigrants’ economic contributions, including Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy data showing unauthorized immigrants paid $101.5 million in state and local taxes in 2010 alone.
In 2016, immigrants made up more than 12 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Other institute numbers show 9 percent of New Mexico residents were born in another country. Roughly 120,000 immigrants — or 6 percent of state residents — were not U.S. citizens.
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS
Dozens of people gave emotional testimony in support of the bill Monday night before the city council voted, with many wearing stickers saying “Somos Todo New Mexico” — meaning, “We are all New Mexico.”
Javier Solis, a local high school senior, said the measure would mark a step toward making all city residents equal.
Councilwoman Diane Gibson said she was voting in support of the bill, in part, because of longtime economic concerns.
Opponents argue the bill would put Albuquerque out of step with federal law. It also could potentially jeopardize hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding for police officers, should the Justice Department eventually prevail in its push to withhold federal funds from sanctuary and immigrant friendly cities.
“The radical proposal to turn Albuquerque into a sanctuary city is a plain attempt to shield criminals from the law,” state GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said. “At a time when city leaders are fighting one of the worst crime rates in history, these radical attempts by our most left-wing politicians to undermine law enforcement and protect criminals are unthinkable.”