Editorial: Mayor mislabels St. Petersburg as sanctuary city

Mayor Rick Kriseman mislabels St. Petersburg as a "sanctuary city."
Published February 6 2017
Updated February 6 2017

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's declaration that the city is "a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws" was well-intended but poorly conceived. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was right to criticize — it's his department that should and does cooperate with federal immigration authorities, after all.

In a blog post Friday, Kriseman emphasized that St. Petersburg is an inclusive place for people from all walks of life. Referring to President Donald Trump's executive actions on immigration and sanctuary cities — places where local law enforcement authorities refuse to cooperate with federal authorities — Kriseman said St. Petersburg will "continue to create conditions that afford both sanctuary and opportunity." To him, that means a higher minimum wage, diversion programs for low-level offenders and job training.

But that's not the common notion of a sanctuary city, and Kriseman said later he meant it only in philosophical, not literal, terms. He acknowledged that the Sheriff's Office is responsible for notifying federal officials about people who are here illegally, but he also wrote that the city won't expend resources enforcing "harmful" immigration laws. That's insufficient clarity.

Kriseman's statement was a well-intended message of inclusion during a time of uncertainty and division over immigrants' place in American society. It's a shame he muddied it with poorly chosen words.

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