ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman was invited to speak to the Muslim community at the Islamic Society of St Petersburg right after Traditional Friday prayer.
Imam Abdul Karim Ali, a longtime friend of Kriseman’s, introduced the mayor and recognized his efforts to support the Islamic community.
“Thank God that he has accepted and championed the cause of supporting Muslims coming together,” Ali said.
Kriseman reminded everyone of his vision when he took office as mayor, that St. Pete will be a city where the sun shines on all.
Mayor Kriseman and Imam Abdul Karim Ali
“That includes all faiths and everyone in this room,” he said. “And it’s not just about words, it’s about action. I know this is once again a challenging time to be Muslim in America. It’s not right and it’s not fair. But I believe that there are not words or policies that can fracture the spirit of the people in this room or of Muslims across St. Petersburg. We are all in this together.”
Addressing the question of whether St. Pete is a “sanctuary city,” which is a city that follows procedures to help shelter immigrants from federal immigration authorities, Kriseman said technically, St. Pete couldn’t be labeled as such.
“I say that because we don’t have the jurisdiction to make those decisions as to whether Immigration is notified,” he said. “What our police officers do is when they arrest someone, they transport them to the jail and it’s at that point in time that the sheriff makes a determination as to whether Immigration will be notified.”
St. Pete police officers will arrest anyone who violates the law, Kriseman clarified, but what they will not do is ask, “Are you an illegal immigrant?” and “Can I see your papers?”
In campaigning for the presidency last year, President Trump vowed to dismantle sanctuary cities, which have become a political flashpoint. Last month he signed an executive order banning travel into the United States by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.
Kriseman said he stands in solidarity with the more than 200 other mayors across this country that have the jurisdiction and have declared their cities sanctuary cities.
“I stand with them and I support them,” the mayor said, “because I have read the executive orders and I find the executive orders to be very troubling, and quite frankly, I believe they’re un-American.”
One of the executive orders, Kriseman explained, allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to negotiate with each local government to deputize its officers to become immigration officers.
“Our police officers are going to remain St. Pete police officers,” he said firmly. “They’re not immigration officers. And I’m not about to take people off the street to become immigration officers when we have enough work for them to do here as our police officers.”
As to the possibility of any threats to the local Muslim community, Kriseman assured everyone that the city is monitoring “any threat” and is in close contact with all branches of law enforcement at each level, all the way up to Homeland Security.