The San Antonio Police Department’s practice of not asking about someone’s citizenship status is now official police procedure.
KENS-TV, San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — This Texas city could be moving closer to becoming a sanctuary city.

The San Antonio Police Department has made it clear that it doesn’t want to be in the business of enforcing federal immigration law.

SAPD Chief William McManus said San Antonio police officers don’t inquire about someone’s citizenship status if they’re pulled over during a traffic stop. Police in San Antonio have been operating like this for some time, but now, the practice will become official police procedure and appear in the police manual. The move has the support of Mayor Ivy Taylor.

“Citizenship status is a federal matter and is not the role of our municipal police department,” said Taylor.

The police department believes crime goes unreported if people are afraid that the local police department is going to turn them over to federal immigration agents. For example, they want a female undocumented immigrant to feel like she can come to police to report that she’s been raped without fear of being deported.

In the past, the police department has held town hall meetings in heavily Hispanic areas of the city to inform residents about those policies. The meetings are part of the police department’s “UNIDOS” program, an outreach to Spanish-speaking residents.

The Bexar County Republican Party says policies like those might actually make San Antonio a crime magnet. Party chairman Robert Stovall points to a killing in San Francisco in July. Kathryn Steinle, 32, was killed by an undocumented immigrant who had seven felony convictions and had been deported five times before. San Francisco is a sanctuary city.

Steinle’s death brought so-called sanctuary cities into the national spotlight, prompting politicians in Congress, state legislatures and local governments to call for sweeping changes. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in July cracking down on those cities.

And on Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that targeted sanctuary cities, prohibiting local governments from approving policies that supporters say encourages immigrant crime victims to come forward.

“I can’t imagine any law-abiding citizen that would want San Antonio to be a safe haven for criminals,” said Stovall.

The police department’s actions do not make San Antonio a sanctuary city. City Council would have to approve that with a vote. Stovall added that becoming a sanctuary city could jeopardize federal and state grants the city and police department receive. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made it clear he plans to challenge the status of sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State.

San Antonio said it doesn’t want to give the impression it’s harboring criminals. The city said anyone arrested with an active federal immigration warrant will be turned over to federal immigration authorities.

Contributing: Alan Gomez, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.

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