NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As President-Elect Donald Trump looks ahead to assuming the oval office he is focusing on his top goals, among them ending federal funding for so-called "sanctuary cities."
"We've never been a sanctuary city. The Department of Justice testified before congress recently that New Orleans is not a sanctuary city," said Zach Butterworth, Director of Federal Relations for Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Administration.
For its part, ICE told FOX 8 News that the agency does not use the term "sanctuary city" and that is a subjective term.
Still, the term is widely thought to refer to communities in which local law enforcement agencies refuse to notify the feds before releasing individuals from jail who have federal holds on them over immigration issues.
"We don't ask people about their immigration status. That's the policy of NOPD. That fully complies with federal law and we think that makes the community safer," said Butterworth.
He said that is in line with the federal consent decree under which the New Orleans Police Department currently operates.
"The consent decree says we're supposed to treat everybody equally. It says we're not supposed to ask witnesses about this, we're not supposed to ask people who are victims about their immigration status," continued Butterworth.
Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission said having local police focus on immigration enforcement would be problematic given local departments resources.
"If the police get a 911 call for an armed robbery and they're transporting an immigration offender to the lockup they cannot respond to that armed robbery," Goyeneche stated.
Orleans Parish Prison's cooperation with ICE has limitations.
Its policy states, "The Sheriff's Office shall decline all voluntary ICE detainer requests except if an individual is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, treason, or armed robbery with use of a firearm."
Even if the enforcement is done by some of the federal authorities is that when they make an arrest and detain somebody they go into the local jails. In New Orleans and in Jefferson Parish the local jails are full of felons that are being held to be tried for serious felony offenses, so that would require the release of some serious offenders to be able to hold federal immigration inmates," said Goyeneche.
And jail overcrowding concerns aside, Goyeneche said the jail in New Orleans has a shortage of deputies to oversee inmates, which is another issue.
"There's not enough deputies right now to staff the jail in Orleans Parish and that's for the felony offenders that are there all pre-trial, so there's a cause and effect," he said.
State police said troopers are not trained in identifying whether someone is in the country legally, or illegally. But a spokesperson said if the electronic system shows there is a federal hold on them relating to immigration the proper authorities would be notified.