Mayor Elorza to meet with Trump administration on illegal immigration

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is traveling to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to discuss President Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Elorza, a Democrat, will join several mayors from around the country as well as a group of police chiefs to talk with Kelly in a meeting that is closed to the press, according to an advisory sent by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“They talk loosely about sanctuary cities, but they haven’t given any details or guidance on what they mean when they say that,” Elorza told Eyewitness News. “So we want more clarity on it.”

The executive order signed by President Trump on Jan. 25 called for federal immigration officers to ramp up enforcement actions while also targeting “sanctuary jurisdictions” that “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” The order also called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers.

On Monday U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would begin withholding certain grants from jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration officers, but no list of the communities at risk to losing federal funds has been released.

Elorza has said he considers Providence a sanctuary city, but he has also argued the city fully complies with federal law when it comes to immigration issues, including entering the fingerprints of anyone who is arrested into a database that is monitored by ICE.

The city refuses to hold undocumented immigrants for an extended period of time while ICE secures a warrant and police officers do not ask residents about their immigration status, two policies that lead critics to refer to Providence as a sanctuary city.

As co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Immigration Reform Task Force, Elorza said his goal is to explain how Trump’s executive order could affect communities across the country. He said he wants the administration to know “the folks we’re standing up for are people who are otherwise leading law-abiding lives.”

“What you hear from mayors is we’re not standing up for criminals in our community,” Elorza said. “There’s no disagreement. We agree that if someone is committing a crime, especially a violent crime, and they’re undocumented, they should be deported.”

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan