Rick Kriseman declares St. Petersburg a ‘sanctuary from harmful immigration laws’

Charlie Crist, Rick Kriseman

Although St. Petersburg isn’t officially classified as a sanctuary city, Mayor Rick Kriseman all but declared that’s exactly what his town is on Saturday. And if the Trump administration wants to deny the city federal funds because of that stance, the mayor’s response is essentially, ‘We’ll see you in court.’

“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,” Kriseman wrote on Medium on Saturday.

“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,” the mayor added. “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.”

In general, sanctuary cities are defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities. The right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies listed Pinellas (as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando) as sanctuary counties in a 2015 reportbut that classification has been strongly disputed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“When they ask us to do things within the law, we operate with them and their programs to help them take those that are illegal who have committed crimes . . . and get them out of here,”” Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura Morel last week.

Although sanctuary cities and counties have existed in some form since the 1980’s, they became a much more potent political flash point in the summer of 2015, after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot while walking on San Francisco’s Embarcadero by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump vowed to dismantle sanctuary cities, citing those areas for harboring dangerous immigrants who commit crimes against Americans. He followed up on that promise shortly after being inaugurated last month, signing an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities.

While nearly every mayor of a sanctuary city has brazenly defied Trump’s executive order with rhetoric indicating that they will dig in and resist the threat (and in the case of San Francisco, gone ahead and filed a lawsuit blocking that executive order), Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been one of the few local officials to heed Trump, ordering his jails to comply with requests from the federal government on detaining illegal immigrants.

There have been efforts by immigration activists in Tampa for months to persuade Mayor Bob Buckhorn to convert his municipality into a sanctuary city, and Kriseman acknowledges in his post that he too has received similar requests. Both have deferred on the issue, saying that the responsibility for holding undocumented immigrants is left to their respective county governments and law enforcement officials.

While the issue of sanctuary cities isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s been superseded by the fallout from Trump’s executive order signed last week banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

On Friday, Buckhorn attended Friday prayers at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque, where he called Trump’s actions “an attack on Islam as a religion.”

In his post on the online platform, Kriseman wrote that “the larger debate is no longer about sanctuary cities but about President Trump’s demonization of Muslims and the recent suspension of our refugee program.”

On Saturday morning, the State Department announced that previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday night temporarily blocked enforcement of the president’s immigration ban.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


  • Cherie Byrd

    February 4, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    What the heck?.. RICK KRISEMAN IS NOT REPRESENTING ME, as a resident of Saint Petersburg, nor is Buckhorn or those of surrounding counties. My family migrated here in 1896 from Wildwood, FL, and only about 10-20 years from Scotland & Ireland. My grandfather likely turning over in his grave. Who gave these people authority to a third for or against wishes of the itizens of this community. What is this idiot thinking? I go with the flow, generally, but not on this act of stupidity. He wants media coverage. Go Miami! I lived in Costa Rica for 5 years. I followed their rules. Option B was incarceration, financial penalty or deportation. I showed passport and country issued ID whenever asked. I owned property there. I was a declared, legal ex-pat and followed their laws. So simple. What is the problem? I don’t want people from overseas who cannot be vetted, in my town. I have never marched, but you can be damned sure I will fight this error in judgement!

    • E.L. Lucas

      February 4, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      Can you cite your sources that indicate that the refugees are not vetted? I am curious because every article I read indicates that refugees applying to enter the USA go through the most strenuous vetting system on earth. Perhaps I am wrong. Please name your sources. I’d love to get the facts. BTW, I look for sources straight from the actual source, not opinion pieces. Thanks for your help, Ms. Byrd.

      • David Wallace

        February 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm

        DHS admits they have NO, repeat, NO WAY of thoroughly vetting refugees
        from most of the third world countries because no valid records exist.

  • An old Vet

    February 4, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    It may be your values,asshole,but it’s not mine,I hope he takes every dime from your safe city,and that goes for your pall Buckhorn,because you sure as hell are not looking out for the safety or creating jobs for the LEAGAL Americans in your cities ,

  • Karen

    February 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Can someone please tell me how our government can vet hundreds of thousands of men named Mohammed coming from bombed out towns and hamlets where even if they collected birth records, criminal records etc. etc. this information is most probably destroyed and do you want me to believe that they would cooperate with the US in providing this information to Americans even if it was available ? Don’t make me laugh people you’re watching too much CNN!

  • Stefanie

    February 5, 2017 at 11:09 am

    If Krisemen declares St Petersburg sanctuary city I will not be back. My husband and I like to stay the weekend there every 3 weeks but will not be back. Plenty of places in Florida fortunately that will follow the law and keep citizens safe. Stay safe St Petersburg as the criminals will be coming to your safe place.

  • Thomas

    February 5, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I can tell you this… Rick, you might have been voted in but as soon as your time is up you will be jobless. Buckhorn too. Why why why on earth to you want to support criminal behavior? This is a DUMB decision and I for one am PISSED that you will put the lives of illegal aliens ahead of the legal citizens you are suppose to represent. You are a FAILURE!

  • Brad

    February 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    The office of Mayor of St. Petersburg is a non partisan office…at least it is supposed to be. Candidates do not run with an “R” or “D” behind their name. Unfortunately, that is precisely how Mayor Kriesman has governed since elected. Mayor, you are not in the legislature anymore. Leave the partisan politics at home. We don’t need it in City Hall

  • Michael Schafer

    February 6, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I am appalled that our mayor supports the idea of tacitly agreeing with breaking the law of the land. I vigorously oppose this action and I am hopeful that the city council will inform him that he has overstepped his authority.

Comments are closed.


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