ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Federal immigration agents will now check status of everyone arrested and taken to jail.
Mayor Richard Berry this afternoon announced a new immigration policy that he says will end Albuquerque’s status as a “sanctuary city” for criminals.
Debate over the circumstances under which police can check suspects’ immigration status was a centerpiece of the 2009 mayoral campaign, when Berry defeated three-term incumbent Martin Chavez.
Under the new policy, Berry said, everyone arrested and taken to jail will have their status checked by immigration officers. The move will ensure that all arrestees are treated equally and that no ethnic groups are singled out, he said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement “will be screening everyone who walks through those doors — regardless of their nationality, race or the language they speak,” Berry told reporters gathered at the city’s new Prisoner Transport Center.
ICE agents will be stationed at the center, which is where suspects are taken before transportation to the West Side jail. The center now handles about 87 percent of all arrestees and in coming months will handle 100 percent of them, Berry said.
An ICE representative said the agency already checks the local jail but is unable to be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means some illegal immigrants may be released before they’re reviewed by ICE, he said.
The new arrangement with Albuquerque should ensure all arrestees are screened, officials said.
About 25 to 40 illegal immigrants each week are found at the local jail, then referred for immigration proceedings or removed from the country immediately, ICE said.