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'Sanctuary City' Mayor Speaks After Nationwide Immigration Raids


Over the past few days, federal immigration officials have conducted major raids around the country, arresting hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Officials say they targeted known criminals. However, immigration advocates say they have also detained some with no criminal records. Agents were sent into homes and workplaces in a number of American cities, including so-called sanctuary cities, like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. These are places where local authorities don't automatically cooperate with federal immigration agents. The mayor of one of those cities, Steve Adler of Austin Texas, joins us now on the line.

Good morning.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: First, can you tell us what's happening in your city right now?

ADLER: What we have right now is ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are making raids, picking people up. And they are, we understand, going after folks that are targeted. But they're also picking up people that are caught in that net that don't have the same kind of criminal backgrounds.

We have a community that is, quite frankly, scared. There's a lot of uncertainty here. It's, unfortunately, undermining a lot of the trust relationship that had been built up with our public safety officials over time. It's sending people back into the darkness. My assessment is, in a lot of ways, it's making us less safe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mayor, I'm reading my Twitter feed. And President Trump has just tweeted this - the crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers and others are being removed.

What's your reaction to the president's statement? He feels that he is making the country more safe by removing these people.

ADLER: You know, I rely here on our public safety professionals - our police chief, our sheriff. And quite frankly, their views are consistent with the national - the big cities' police chiefs. What they say is that you have to develop a trust relationship with communities. In our community, we have one of the - in fact, Austin is one of the safest communities in the country. And we're safe because we have that relationship.

Victims in our community feel free to come forward and seek help from our public safety, regardless of who they are. Witnesses to events and to crimes feel safe coming to our police because they know they can do that safely. That's something that we've earned over time. And what our police and our professionals tell us is, is that if they're going to keep this community safe, they have to be able to preserve that relationship.

When they're asked to participate in voluntary programs - and again, you know, it's important to note that Austin, Texas, is not breaking any federal or state laws - when we're being asked to also act as federal immigration agents, it undermines that trust and that faith. And quite frankly, we don't have the resources to have our public safety people operating as federal immigration agents any more than federal tax agents or federal environmental agents.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, we should remind people, I think, at this point that these raids - these types of raids were carried out under the Obama administration as well. Is there anything different, in your view, about this?

ADLER: Well, my understanding is that in the Obama administration, they were targeting people that had warrants. They were criminals or - and that if during the Obama administration, my understanding from talking to our consul general, is that when they would pick that person up, they wouldn't pick up the other three or four people that happened to be around them that were caught in that moment. What's happening now, I understand, is they're not only picking up the person who has the criminal background but somebody who does not. And that means that the raid is broader in this circumstance.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Very briefly - President Trump has criticized sanctuary cities. Austin is considered one. Do you feel that your city was deliberately targeted?

ADLER: You know, I'm not real sure what a sanctuary city is in today's definitions. Under the president's order, it seems to be that a sanctuary city is a city that violates federal or state law, which we don't. And under that definition, I guess, we would not be a sanctuary city.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you feel targeted, though, because of your positions?

ADLER: I think our community does feel targeted. And what we're understanding is that the activity in Austin may very well be greater and more intense than is happening in other places.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, Texas, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today.

ADLER: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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