This week Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would withhold federal grants to cities that don’t follow federal rules on immigration enforcement. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s stance on immigration. He says he won’t be changing the city’s openly immigrant-friendly policies.
GONZALES: We don’t believe that this will have any impact on any Department of Justice grants to Santa Fe, because we believe that we are fully compliant with all federal laws and all state laws. Having said that, we’re not going to change our policies of welcoming immigrants from around the world—especially those that want to come in and contribute to the well-being of our community.
Unfortunately, this has really been played out more on the political stage as theater. But it’s had a real devastating impact in homes in our community. Many children go to school worried about whether their parents will be home at night and many parents go to work hoping that they’ll get to return home to see their children.
KUNM: When we talk about immigrants that can be impacted by these policies—and who you’re saying already are feeling an impact from these policies—who are we talking about?
GONZALES: Here in Santa Fe, 14 percent of our population is part of the immigrant community. Because we don’t ask for status we don’t know how many have documented status and how many don’t, but it’s a large segment of our population.
Whether you have documentation or you don’t, whether you’re an employer or a school teacher, it is a difficult environment for people to wake up to every day.
KUNM: You said Santa Fe is following federal immigration rules. Attorney General Sessions said he would withhold funds from cities that don’t share information with immigration enforcement. So are you sharing information with federal immigration officers now?
GONZALES: Let’s make clear that there is no constitutional requirement by the federal Constitution that requires cities to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration policy. There’s nothing that compels cities to participate in an area that clearly is within the realm of the federal government.
The rule that [Attorney] General Sessions points to is a rule that requires local governments to share information. We are in compliance with that. What our city does not do, is we don’t collect status on people who live in our community. So there’s not a collection of information on any of our citizens.
The federal government’s welcome to any information, just like the public is welcome to, on any data that the city is currently in charge of.
KUNM: So, the city is in compliance because it’s sharing information, it’s just not collecting the information that Attorney General Sessions is talking about?
GONZALES: That’s correct. There’s nowhere in our government where we collect information regarding the status of a person living in our city.
KUNM: The City of Santa Fe signed on to a 'friend of the court' brief in support of a lawsuit by a county in California that’s challenging the Trump Administration’s policies on sanctuary cities. Is a lawsuit from the City of Santa Fe a possibility going forward in your view?
GONZALES: No, because I think with the presence of these lawsuits being able to join in on an amicus allows us to lend our support, to let the courts know that there is an impact on our community and to participate in trying to get a preemption on a policy that is flawed, that doesn’t achieve the objective of protecting our country and that is incredibly vague.
That has certainly been the pattern under this president. We’re hoping that the courts will do as they did in the travel ban, that they will say that this policy is not lawful.
KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico Project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation.