SAN ANTONIO -- With 52 days before the election, sanctuary cities was the topic for voters in San Antonio once again.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus was grilled on the issue by members of the local Tea Party.
“As far as the police department goes, we do not ask anyone what their immigration status is,” McManus said.
Chief McManus explained why that's his position, and that of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association. They believe it undermines trust and cooperation with immigrant communities.
“The problem it creates is that is that no one in an immigrant community would call police ever again for fear of being deported,” McManus explained. “Women who are abused by their significant others, people who are ripped off by employers, no one would call to report that information.”
McManus says that local police don't have legal authority to enforce federal immigration laws.
“The fact of the matter is, it's your duty to enforce all laws,” one audience member said.
“When you say we should enforce our laws, you're talking to the wrong person,” McManus responded. “Maybe if you had a federal guy in here to say that we should enforce our laws, you'd have a point there. But not with local law enforcement.”
On Thursday, the candidates for sheriff were also asked about what they believe the sheriff’s role is in enforcing immigration laws.
San Antonio Police Sergeant Javier Salazar is a Democrat running for Bexar County Sheriff. He told the audience that he helped author the current policy of not inquiring about a detainee’s immigration status.
“I am proud to say that I am one of the authors of that policy. As far as the jail goes, my intention is to follow the rules set forth under the Priorities Enforcement Program,” Salazar said.
The Priorities Enforcement Program helps federal immigration officers decide which undocumented immigrants are a priority for removal from the country, with those suspected of terrorism, espionage or a threat to national security at the top of the list.
The current sheriff, Susan Pamerleau, says she's not happy with how the current removal program works.
“My issue is when they commit a crime. There is not a law today that requires that they be removed from the United States,” she said. “They stay in our community to commit additional crime.”
As she runs for re-election, Pamerleau says that some undocumented immigrants slip through the cracks.
“Of those 90 [undocumented immigrants], 55 of them had had previous class A misdemeanors, but had not had a [federal immigration] detainer on them.”