Mayor Gonzales’ national defense of sanctuary cities draws support, attacks

November 17, 2016

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales emerged as a national spokesman for sanctuary cities during appearances to discuss immigration issues Tuesday on Fox News with Megyn Kelly and Wednesday with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Gonzales gave passionate defenses of municipal policies against targeting undocumented immigrants and fought back against what he called false claims that such policies lead to increases in crime.

Like some other mayors of cities where police don’t focus on immigration status when dealing with members of the public, Gonzales has discounted President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities on his first day in office.

Gonzales said the threat is a matter of concern for Santa Fe, which expects to receive about $6 million in federal funds in the current fiscal year. Interim Finance Director Adam Johnson says that equals about 2 percent of the city’s total budget.

However, the mayor of New Mexico’s capital city, which adopted its immigrant-friendly policy in 1999, said of the threatened funding cutoff: “It’s a long way before that actually happens.”

Gonzales’ outspokenness on the issue immediately generated a variety of responses on social media, including backlash on Twitter, where commenters using such names as “Deplorable Wendy” and “The Seattle Redneck” hammered the mayor with nasty and sometimes racist tweets. The mayor also received an outpouring of support for his comments.

The back and forth underscores deep divisions exposed by the recent presidential election campaigns and the victory by Trump, who has made clamping down on illegal immigration a central campaign message since he first announced his intention to run for president.

While acknowledging during his CNN interview that a potential loss of federal funding is a concern, Gonzales said, “We’re going to do everything we can to encourage the new president and the Congress to pass federal immigration reforms so that we don’t have to worry about this at the local level.

“But if we do, this is a question of values and where we’re going to stand going forward. Is it better in the name of receiving federal funds to disrupt family lives, people that are living in communities peacefully, children that are part of a family that is producing great work in our community?” he asked. “Those are all areas that I think, as mayor of my city, I want to stand on the side of. We’ll find our way to get through this. We’ve weathered tough times before in our community. But I’m not going to be a part of breaking up families, supporting federal deportation officials as they try and destroy the fabric of our community when this really is a federal responsibility.”

Among the reactions on social media was a tweet by Gabriella Marks, a lifestyle and portrait photographer in Santa Fe, who said of Gonzales: “Thank you for representing Santa Fe and our values — a sane & humane approach to immigration.”

Others attacked the mayor and his position.

“Just watched you on Fox. You are a perfect example of what is wrong with this country. Politically correct, but REALLY dumb,” tweeted a user who identified himself as Bill Bendel.

“You worthless [expletive], you are a traitor to this country. We’ll remember you,” tweeted “The Seattle Redneck.”

Some comments on Twitter were racist.

“Mexicans out, America belongs to Whites!” a Twitter user with the handle @yespasaran_ wrote in a tweet to Gonzales that included a picture of a swastika.

That comment drew a response from the mayor, who posted a screen shot of the message on Facebook. “I believe in [an] America far different than this tweet,” Gonzales wrote. “My resolve is strengthened and we will overcome hatred.”

Gonzales was able to do sit-down interviews in New York City with major television news networks because he is attending a mental health care conference hosted by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The city of Santa Fe is paying $700 for the trip.

Gonzales “is pairing that conference with a press tour to support and boost tourism in Santa Fe, so he’s meeting with the James Beard Foundation, CNN Money, and the Food Network as part of that tour,” city spokesman Matt Ross said Tuesday in an email. “Because of the dual-nature of the trip, Tourism and the Mayor’s Office are splitting the costs.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.