Immigrants, including those who lack U.S. citizenship documentation, can get tested for COVID-19 and seek medical care at a public hospital free of charge. A visit to the hospital will not result in a charge against an undocumented immigrant, according to Michelle Melendez, director of Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. She also said social security numbers will not be gathered. That message was one part of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Facebook live press conference Monday to address equity, one of Keller’s signature concerns as mayor. When Keller took office in 2017, he created the Office of Equity and Inclusion to address systemic racism in the city and selected Melendez to lead it.
The Bernalillo County Commission reiterated its commitment to being an immigrant-friendly community. On Tuesday night, commissioners voted 4-1 against a provision that would have rolled back that status. County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican who is running for Albuquerque mayor, introduced a proposal to bring the county in alignment with the federal government’s current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally. “There is nothing in this resolution that directs or even implies that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department should be enforcing federal immigration law,” Johnson said. “Everything in this resolution puts the burden on the Department of Homeland Security and on Immigration and Customs. It allows access to detainees, identified by the DHS, and it allows notification when those identified detainees will be released 48 hours prior and then it would allow, in the very specific condition, for us to hold someone for 48 hours if the Department of Homeland Security agrees to indemnify the county against liability.”
Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.
Less than a week after Donald Trump won the election for president of the United States, the mayor of New Mexico’s capital city is not backing down from so-called “sanctuary” status. This comes despite threats to cut federal money to such cities made by the president-elect during the campaign. “The threat is intended to divide us against each other,” Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales wrote in a statement on Twitter Monday afternoon. “It is one of the first, but it won’t be the last we see out of this administration, which based on its own words intends to persecute and attack not only immigrants but women, Muslims, people of color, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and more.”
Though there is no formal legal definition, the politically charged term “sanctuary city” typically refers to cities that limit cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on immigration policies. Santa Fe, for example, bars the use of public resources to check for someone’s immigration status.
Following passage of a bill during the recent legislative session to meet requirements of the federal Real ID Act, Gov. Susana Martinez has since applied for a waiver from the federal law. The Associated Press reports that Martinez formally requested a waiver for New Mexico from federal Homeland Security Department Deputy Secretary Alejando Mayorkas. Martinez told reporters last week that she would be doing so during her upcoming trip to Washington DC. Because of the state’s failure to make progress towards meeting Real ID standards, New Mexico driver’s licenses currently aren’t accepted as entrance to some federal facilities. Homeland Security warned that continued failure would mean its driver’s licenses won’t be able to be used in airports in two years.