Port Arthur mayor addresses 'sanctuary city' issue, seeks to reassure residents

PORT ARTHUR - The mayor of Port Arthur took to Facebook to address the issue of "Sanctuary Cities" and to reassure Hispanic residents that the city supports them.

In the post, which included a photo of Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Freeman mentioned that he had heard of a mother who, because of deportation fears, was afraid to call police to report that her child had been molested.

Freeman went on to assure Hispanic residents that public safety, not immigration, is the job of the city's police force.

"If you witness a crime please call the police. If your home catches fire, please call the fire department. We won't show up asking about immigration status," Freeman said in the post.

In the post Freeman announced that he would be holding a Hispanic community forum to answer questions on March 11 at the Port Arthur Public Library promising to release more details on the upcoming forum.

Freeman said he had been working with other Texas mayors to build a coalition to address concerns with proactive solutions and mentioned having a great meeting with the mayor of Austin.

Freeman acknowledged the need for immigration reform but said that the mayors and cities of America are not able to change that saying "we do streets, water, trash, sewer, parks, etc. not immigration."

He stressed that the City of Port Arthur can not be out of compliance with ICE detainers because the city does not detain people noting that once arrested they are turned over to the county since the city has no jail to release people from.

The term "sanctuary city" describes up to 300 communities that have a range of policies protecting the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants from deportation

Some cities — including San Francisco, Chicago and New York — proudly declare themselves sanctuaries and have enacted policies that prohibit municipal employees from turning over residents or information on them to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Other cities more narrowly restrict police from inquiring about the immigration status of detained suspects. There also are cities that work with federal immigration authorities but refuse to hold suspects in jail solely so ICE agents can pick them up.

The issue of "sanctuary cities" could become a major conflict between President Trump and local governments and may result in legal challenges testing how far the White House can go in dictating its priorities.

The President will be armed with a range of powerful options, including federal lawsuits and the power to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in grants that states and cities rely on.

-- With reports from USA Today

© 2017 KBMT-TV


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