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Mixed Messages from Tampa Bay officials on Sanctuary Cities

Politics At Odds with Policy
Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 06, 2017

As the debate over who's allowed to come and go in America spills into Tampa Bay, local cities are taking a stand.

"St. Petersburg is in spirit a sanctuary city," says Benjamin Kirby, city spokesman. "We welcome everybody." 

In St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is making his position clear, writing on a blog over the weekend.

"I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws," wrote the mayor.

RELATED: Mayor Kriseman calls St. Pete a sanctuary city

"It's a message we're trying to send to the nation and to the world...About what kind of city we are," says Kirby.

The sanctuary sentiment is not isolated to the St. Pete side of the bay, powerful voices in Tampa are also emerging , making the message clear that while they are not 'technically' a sanctuary city, they support the idea.

"This city was built on Cuban and Italian immigrants who came here to roll cigars," says Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Mayor Buckhorn refuses to call Tampa a Sanctuary City, saying the term has no legal definition and noting that it's up to the sheriff's office to determine someone's legal status.

But the Mayor says Tampa Police will not be rounding up immigrants.

"If illegal immigrants are involved in a crime , we will arrest them. Just like we would anyone else, but our police department is not going to be out there rounding up people just because they aspire to be Americans," he says.

But  the politics of sanctuary appear to be in conflict with the policy of local law enforcement.

The Pinellas County Sheriff responding to Mayor Kriseman through a statement that reads in part

"Regardless of statements made for political purposes, we will enforce the law countywide and assist our federal law enforcement partners to the fullest extent permitted by law."