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Is SLC a sanctuary city? Could it lose funding when Trump takes office?

Is SLC a sanctuary city? Could it lose funding when Trump takes office? (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) President-elect Donald Trump plans to yank full federal funding from “sanctuary cities” in his first 100 days in office. It is listed as number three on his “Five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law.” That to to-do list has some Utahns concerned.

Sanctuary cities have laws in place sheltering undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Utah could possibly qualify as such a city, but it depends on how Trump and his advisers define a sanctuary city or if he lets the city define its own status.

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Both the Salt Lake mayor's office and Salt Lake Police Department said Tuesday, the city is “technically not a sanctuary city.” There are however policing policies in place that make it look like one.

If you Google "sanctuary city" you'll find Salt Lake on a list with a dozen others across the U.S, on websites for immigration attorneys and Wikipedia.

"What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country,” Trump said as he sat down for an interview for CBS's "60 Minutes," that aired Sunday.

The president-elect not only promised to rid the country of criminals in the country illegally in his first 100 days, but also "cancel all funding to sanctuary cities."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago reacted, telling his residents, "you are safe in Chicago. You are secure in Chicago, and you are supported in Chicago." His city is considered a sanctuary city.

The Salt Lake mayor's office and police department declined to go on camera but both stated the city is not technically a sanctuary city, but instead called it a "welcoming city."

Former SLCPD Chief Chris Burbank, who started the policies that look a lot like a sanctuary city, disagrees.

“Yes we are. And it was something I was very proud of,” he said.

When Burbank was acting chief he worked to put policies in place to make Salt Lake a sanctuary city before the phrase existed. He noted that a police department takes care of criminal issues, not civil. Just like his police department did not knock on doors to get tax papers turned in, he did not feel like it was his duty to do the same for immigration status.

“I took a position and said officers in the Salt Lake City Police Department are not going to enforce immigration laws -- in fact we are not going to ask. The questions we care about are the health and well being of our city, not the status of our community.”

Current Police Chief Brown has a statement on his website stating Burbank’s policy, but without the title: "While salt lake city is not a so-called 'sanctuary city', our law enforcement model focuses on providing service and public safety to all citizens of our city, regardless of status or demographics."

A spokesperson for the police department said Salt Lake is not a sanctuary city because anyone arrested can be searched and pulled from the jails if they are undocumented.

Immigration officials have access to arrest records and citizenship status, something not available in sanctuary cities.

Brown's webpage reads:

In signing the letter to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy, I and fellow Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force members are intending to change the narrative about law enforcement and its place in immigration enforcement.
In diverse cities across the nation, law enforcement officers battle for trust and work tirelessly to instill a model of community-oriented policing that will be negatively affected by efforts of our government to mandate immigrant-status checks within our tactics.
My goal in signing this letter is to conduct a dialogue with the Senate Judiciary Committee on focusing efforts on changing the immigration system rather than intensifying our local policing programs. While Salt Lake City is not a so-called ‘sanctuary city’, our law enforcement model focuses on providing service and public safety to all citizens of our city, regardless of status or demographics. Requiring police to enforce federal immigration law undermines the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities, which are an essential element of this community and our practice of community-oriented policing.
Additionally, we believe that defunding federal programs could adversely affect public safety in our community. I look forward to participating in further discussion with our decision makers, locally and federally, to find a positive solution to this complex issue.

A spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Police Department said Tuesday, that Salt Lake unlike sanctuary cities, does not control its own jail. Arrests made in the city go to the Salt Lake County jail where immigration status can be accessed by ICE agents. That distinction, the SLCPD believes, is enough to make Utah a city that doesn’t enforce immigration status but without actually acting as a sanctuary.

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