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City of San Antonio Maintains It's Not A Sanctuary City

San Antonio City Hall
Ryan Loyd
TPR News
San Antonio City Hall

Both Texas Governor Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump called for an end to sanctuary cities on Wednesday. 

Abbott says he would try to remove Texas sheriffs who don’t hold immigrant inmates when federal agents asked them to do so. The term sanctuary city does not have defined meaning that all entities agree upon. In Trump’s executive order signed Wednesday the president claims ‘aliens who illegally enter the United States’ pose a threat to the U.S.

“This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States. Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.  These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic. Tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country, solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation.” 

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus says San Antonio does not consider itself a Sanctuary City.   However, McManus says officers don’t ask the immigration status of those arrested.

“We don’t inquire about people’s immigration status,” McManus said. "Our job is to answer calls for service and work with the community to help prevent and investigate crime. That is our primary mission and responsibility.”

McManus did say, however, an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement frequently visits the police department’s detention center with a list of names ICE is seeking for possible deportation.

“They’re bumping their list up against what we have on our books,” the chief added. “They’re not looking for someone who was arrested on a traffic ticket who may happen to be illegal, they wouldn’t know anyway. They’re looking for people who have committed serious crimes and may be in our detention center.”

Texas Public Radio contacted the Bexar County Sheriff’s office to ask about Sheriff Javier Salazar’s policy on holding inmates who may be here illegally.  In a broadly written statement Salazar said: 

“On the law enforcement side, in accordance with law, my deputies will only conduct stops of individuals when REASONABLE SUSPICION exists that a specific crime has been committed.  This Reasonable Suspicion must be articulable.  Arrests will be made only when PROBABLE CAUSE exists of a crime.  Stopping or arresting someone based upon race or suspected national origin is not acceptable.  Deputies will not make inquiries of someone’s race or nationality without legitimate reason to.  As for policies in the jail, they are quite simple.  We will comply with all laws as they pertain to arrest and release of inmates.  I will honor all warrants for arrest and will only hold inmates as specifically required by law.”  

Wednesday night, San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor sent a memo to City Council re-affirming that San Antonio does not use the term sanctuary city to describe policies.

“The term Sanctuary City does not enhance, nor does it impair, SAPD’s commitment to protecting each and every citizen of San Antonio. However, mayors across the nation have chosen to move past the rhetoric and focus our efforts on public safety.   Here in San Antonio, while we do not use the term to describe our policies, SAPD does not question the immigration status of individuals. SAPD works to cultivate an environment where everyone will feel comfortable seeking the assistance of law enforcement if needed.   Additionally, and in light of the new administration’s intent to eliminate federal law enforcement funding for self-designated Sanctuary Cities, I have asked the City Manager to provide City Council with a summary of current programs and funding amounts that could be jeopardized.”

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules