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Orlando Mayor: Not City's 'Primary Responsibility to Do Enforcement Related to Immigration'

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers participate in a 5-day operation arresting illegal immigrants in Virginia and the District of Columbia. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo)

WASHINGTON – In response to the Trump administration’s plan to crack down on sanctuary cities, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told PJM that the immigration status of criminals arrested in the city of Orlando is not one of his concerns because he does not run the jails.

In a separate interview with PJM, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh questioned why the Trump administration included Baltimore on its list of sanctuary cities.

Dyer was asked how he plans to respond to the Trump administration’s vow to pull federal funding from cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“I’m not sure everybody uses the same meaning for sanctuary cities. We don’t feel that it’s our first primary responsibly to do enforcement related to immigration, so we haven’t had an issue one way or another on that,” Dyer, a Democrat, told PJM after his appearance at the Atlantic Council’s recent “Renewal Summit” in D.C.

Undocumented immigrants in Florida cannot get a driver’s license. PJM asked Dyer if Orlando reports individuals arrested for a crime who cannot produce a license to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“If somebody commits a crime that is not related to simply being an illegal alien, they’re going to go to jail. We don’t actually run the jails – that’s a county responsibility, so whether they’re going to hold somebody that has been able to bail out of the crime that they were brought in for, that’s up to them and it’s not one our concerns,” Dyer said.

Dyer was asked if he plans to team up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) to fight the Trump administration on the sanctuary city crackdown.

“I haven’t gotten involved in that issue yet.  I’ll look at, see what Mayor Garcetti is doing but I haven’t been involved in it,” he said.

Baltimore Mayor Pugh holds a position similar to Dyer on sanctuary cities. Baltimore was recently added to the Trump administration’s list of sanctuary cities that could lose federal funding, but Pugh said that might have been a mistake.

“Well, I don’t know that happens to Baltimore at all. I think there was some mistake, for example, put in terms of listing cities that are sanctuary cities. We’re a welcoming city. We don’t control our jails. They’re controlled by the state,” Pugh said. “We tell our police officers to police our city in such a way that everybody feels safe. We’re not targeting immigrants but we don’t control our jails. We don’t control our prisons. We don’t control any of that.”

When asked if local law enforcement work with ICE to check the immigration status of criminals in Baltimore, Pugh said, “That’s not their job.” PJM sought to clarify with Pugh if she believes the administration’s sanctuary city label for Baltimore is not an appropriate reflection of the actions of her city.

“I don’t know if there’s a disconnect… we want everybody to follow the law and be lawfully abiding citizens and we want to help as many people as we can who come to our city, who want to be part of our city,” Push said. “And so, we are creating the opportunities and more importantly we want a well-policed city in such a way that everybody feel safe.”

During the on-stage discussion with the mayors at the Renewal Summit, Dyer told the audience there were calls for gun control immediately after the Pulse nightclub attack but he declined to act on the issue because it would not help the city heal.

Following the event, PJM asked Dyer if he agreed with proponents of allowing concealed carry of firearms in airport terminals and other public places.

“The Florida legislature several years ago …preempted the local governments from having any ordinances that relate to firearms whatsoever, so we can’t restrict anyone from bringing a firearm into a public facility, a public park or anything else – so it’s totally under state control at this point,” Dyer replied. “They actually passed a bill that said if we tried to affect any laws related to guns they would put us in jail.”

Under the Obama administration, Baltimore and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a consent decree to reform the city’s police department. PJM asked Pugh if she foresees the consent decree changing under the new Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Everything we’ve put in the consent decree is what we want, so whether he has light oversight or heavy oversight what we put forth is what needs to be done: reforming the police department in terms of diversity training, making sure we have the quality equipment that is needed, body cameras on our police officers,” she replied. “These are things I was already advocating at the state level and some of the work has already been done. So we’re very confident in whatever takes place with the consent decree because we are pleased with what we put in writing and what we want done, so we’re going to do the work.”