Updated: Friday, 14 May 2010, 2:02 AM MDT
Published : Thursday, 13 May 2010, 10:36 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE,N.M. - During his campaign Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry called Albuquerque a sanctuary city for criminal illegal immigrants.
Thursday he announced those days are over.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will now check the immigration status of everyone arrested and processed at the prisoner transport center in Downtown Albuquerque before they are taken to the main jail.
"If you find yourself in handcuffs at our processing center, you are going to get checked 100 percent of the time," Mayor Berry said. "Regardless of nationality, your race, what language you speak."
In the past some criminals here illegally would slip through the cracks because federal ICE agents did not have a constant presence at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
In some cases illegal immigrants were released before agents even realized they were at the jail.
Agents will work 24/7 at their new downtown home.
Ralph Arellanes is the state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
He said he thinks the new city policy sets a bad precedent.
Arellanes said he is worried about people wrongly arrested, or arrested for minor offenses like protesting at a rally.
"What is the potential they will deported by ICE?" Arellanes said. "There is always going to be questions on how this is going to be carried out."
He added city to city policies dealing with immigration issues is not the answer, but action from the federal government is.
"It's going to get to the point that it is going to be such a checkerboard that it is going to become a frivolous process," Arellanes said. "We need comprehensive immigration reform that is coast to coast in every state."
Mayor Berry said the new policy eliminates racial profiling since agents will screen and question everyone arrested.
Arellanes said he does not buy it.
"Although the mayor says this policy will be checking everyone, we know that the focus is going to be on Hispanics."
The city said under the old system a little more than half of all suspects brought to the main jail would actually get finger printed and put into a national database.
ICE would identify illegal immigrants through that database.
Now Albuquerque Police will fingerprint everyone arrested.