For more than a year, Latino activists have called on Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to allow Tampa to officially call itself a “sanctuary city” — a jurisdiction where local law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
In a radio interview conducted late last year, Buckhorn said “we’re looking at that,” when asked about the possibility of Tampa falling into that category, joining the mayors of America’s largest cities who have proudly adopted that label. He said at that time that he might not officially make such a declaration because “that has other impacts, but added that, ”I’m not interested in disrupting families and breaking up families, purely because they are of an undocumented status.”
Flash forward to this week, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order denying federal funds to sanctuary cities.
At a press conference with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on Wednesday discussing their support for Trump’s call to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure in the U.S., Buckhorn backed away from any perception that Tampa is a sanctuary city.
“We are not a sanctuary city, and that’s more of a semantic term than anything. There’s no legal definition to that,” he told reporters, before adding that the city has never engaged in helping to deport the undocumented.
“We are not Customs; we are not I.C.E. We are not searching people who have chosen to live here and have not yet got citizenship,” the mayor replied. “That’s not something that we believe in, and not something that I support.”
There are 279 cities and counties which refused to cooperate on at least some deportations in 2016, accounting for 2,008 immigrants who were shielded, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Center for Immigration Studies.
While Tampa is not on that list, Hillsborough County is. The ACLU of Florida released a report last year identifying some 30 counties in Florida that currently have policies declining to respond to Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, or to honor them only in limited circumstances, such as when they are accompanied by a judicial warrant. They includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota Counties.
However, there is some dispute about that ranking in relation to Hillsborough. That’s why the Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) of Hillsborough County will be accepting public comment on the proposal to make Hillsborough County a sanctuary county next Wednesday night at the County Center.