Feds warn Albuquerque ‘sanctuary’ policies may jeopardize crime fighting funds

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city of Albuquerque is responding as New Mexico’s top federal prosecutor says the city’s so-called “sanctuary” or “immigrant-friendly” policy may stand in the way of it being awarded millions of dollars in federal funding to help fight violent crime.

In a guest column published in the Albuquerque Journal Monday titled “ABQ, take federal funds to fight violent crime,” New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson says Albuquerque has “previously refused to accept federal grants” tied to certification that the city complies with “certain aspects of federal immigration law.”

“The op-ed is simply an effort to get the funding here to Albuquerque,” said Anderson in a phone interview with KRQE News 13 on Monday.

Anderson says the city is eligible for more than $10-million in funding earmarked for seven cities that are part of the Department of Justice’s, “Operation Relentless Pursuit,” which has already brought more federal agents to work in Albuquerque.

According to Anderson, the grant funding would allow the city to hire more police officers and help add veteran officers to a federal task force focused on rounding up violent offenders. Monday, Albuquerque Police Deputy Chief Harold Medina said he is disappointed in the words from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“We’re police officers, we’re here to make the community safe,” said Medina. “To me, it’s not fair that the police department and the citizens are extorted into the direction that (federal officials) want to go.”

Anderson believes the city’s “sanctuary” policies are problematic, also saying the city’s SAKI (sexual assault kit initiative) grant funds are “in limbo” due to the city’s view. “Yes, the sanctuary city policy in this instance is presenting an obstacle to getting this money, federal funding here,” Anderson said.

Mayor Tim Keller celebrated the signing of the city’s “immigrant-friendly” resolution in April 2018. The resolution in part prohibits city resources from being used to enforce federal immigration laws.

KRQE News 13 asked Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair about the Keller Administration’s take on the op-ed during a news conference on Monday. “Had I had my choice, (Anderson) would have contacted us before making that statement,” Nair said.

Knowing the Fed’s power in fighting violent crime, Medina says the op-ed is disappointingly political. “We would like the ability to get these resources, but we know that we don’t control all the pieces to the puzzle,” Medina said.

So far, the Feds aren’t backing down from their perspective. “Really my message is we all need to stand together against violent crime in Albuquerque,” Anderson said.

Medina told KRQE News 13 on Monday that the City of Albuquerque says it still intends to apply for the roughly $10-million in federal grant funds. We should know in the next few months if they get approval.

The city says it’s also ready to sue if necessary in order to get federal funding. Albuquerque city officials say several other U.S. cities have successfully done so in the past after being denied grant funds based on immigration-related policies.

In response to the column Monday, Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland provided the following statement:

“Immigrant friendly cities are safer because communities feel more comfortable cooperating with public safety officials and can call the police without fear of deportation. Albuquerque deserves the resources to keep families safe, but unfortunately, the Trump Administration has made a political calculation by withholding crucial money for our communities’ safety – they chose to hold funding hostage based on a racist policy.”

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, (D) Albuquerque

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