Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Weighs In On Expected ICE Raids
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're joined now by Houston, Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner. His city is one of 10 preparing for the possibility of ICE raids this weekend.
Welcome to the program.
SYLVESTER TURNER: Well, thank you for having me.
CORNISH: So what was the effect of having advanced notice on this?
TURNER: Well, I think, certainly, families are concerned that - it has enhanced the anxiety level of people within my city. Families are concerned about being separated from their loved ones. And, quite frankly, it impacts, adversely, public safety as well because we rely on immigrants and others to report when crimes are being committed in their neighborhoods or where they may be living. And so it has had an adverse effect there. And then people are shying away from public services - things that they need for themselves and for their family members, so I can't quite see the upside. But we certainly can see the downside of the publication of these advanced raids.
CORNISH: What kind of guidance have you given your law enforcement personnel? Is there a possibility that - yes, let me just end there. What guidance have you given your law enforcement personnel?
TURNER: Well, let me just say that we have repeatedly said that Houston Police Department is not ICE. We are not going to be participating with ICE on these type of raids. Now, it's one thing - let me separate some things out. If we are talking about people with criminal records, people who have committed violent crimes, people who have felonies, people who are members of gangs like MS-13, that's one thing 'cause we certainly don't want those individuals in our city, period, OK?
CORNISH: But how are you going to make that distinction in a raid situation? I mean, are officials doing anything to shield people from possible arrest?
TURNER: Well, with respect to people who are here like DREAMers and people who have been here for quite some time or people who have come to this country because they are seeking better opportunities, that's a different class. And we're advising people that they do have due process rights. They do not have to answer the door. They do not have to let anybody into their home. And we encourage people to call the Immigration Rights Hotline - 1-833-468-4664.
CORNISH: The Trump administration has argued that these raids are meant to act as a kind of deterrent. If you have a crisis, as we are seeing on the border, and there are people in the country illegally, shouldn't the government be stepping in to try and solve that problem?
TURNER: Well, I think there's a better way to do it. We do need comprehensive immigration reform. You can't do this on a state-by-state, city-by-city basis. That's not going to do it. There are problems in many of these countries outside of the United States. We need to address those problems in those particular countries where people are coming from. For us in the city of Houston, I mean, this is the most diverse city in the United States. One of four Houstonians is foreign-born. And, quite frankly, we are not in the habit of separating families; parents from their children. So again, it's one thing if the focus of these raids is on people with criminal records, people who've have committed violent crimes, people who are part of gangs. That's one thing. But if we're simply talking about deporting people who have been here for quite some time, that their crime is only coming here to seek a better way of living or to provide a better opportunity for their families, that's a different situation.
CORNISH: You've mentioned the separation of families. What concerns do you have about the potential for that? Is there any kind of provision the city can make, especially in the case of maybe small children?
TURNER: Well, what we are simply doing as best we can is to make sure that people know their rights. They are - regardless of how you got here when you came to this city or any other in the United States, you do have due process rights. And we want to make sure that people know what their rights are.
CORNISH: Does any of this undermine the attempt of cities like yours to be kind of sanctuaries, so to speak?
TURNER: Well, this is a welcoming city. City of Houston is a welcoming city. We're very diverse. We seek every day to be very inclusive. Let me just say I don't think this does anything to deter people from coming here. And it doesn't create public safety - enhance public safety right here in the city of Houston.
CORNISH: Sylvester Turner is the mayor of Houston. His city is one of 10 where ICE raids are to happen this weekend.
Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
TURNER: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.