Rick Kriseman says St Pete is a sanctuary city, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says police will enforce the law

St. Petersburg Mayor, Rick Kriseman has declared the Pinellas County community a sanctuary city in response to President Trump’s plans to crackdown on immigration.

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” said Kriseman.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States.”

Rick Kriseman

There was no specifics or examples provided to explain which “federal immigration laws” were harmful or how Trump’s new Executive Order created a new hardship on the community in contrast to the Obama administration.

Kriseman said he will take his fight to court if the federal government strips his city of federal funds of the sanctuary city debate.

“Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Sunday his officers would enforce the law. This prompted Kriseman to state in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City —he just agrees with the concept.

“When somebody . . . puts out there that in effect St. Petersburg is a sanctuary jurisdiction, I think it causes a lot of confusion out there and is very misleading to the public because it makes it sound like it’s some sort of declaratory statement, and it’s not,” Gualtieri said.

Under the current immigration enforcement program, local law enforcement agencies notify the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency if a person booked into jail is not a U.S. citizen and there is an indication the person is in the country illegally, said Gualtieri.

From there, ICE can issue a court order to detain the person until federal agents take custody.

“Our officers aren’t walking up to people and checking for their papers, and we’re not going to,” Kriseman said. “The executive order is very broadly written, and there’s a lot of interpretation that’s happening right now…”

City Council member Karl Nurse, believes that Kriseman took a stronger stance than he has the legal authority to carry out.

“I think the mayor was trying to communicate that he is on the side of people who have come to this country, at least emotionally,” Nurse said. “But he can’t as a practical matter translate that into legal action.”

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