A statewide immigrant rights group launched a get-out-the-vote effort in St. Petersburg Tuesday with the aim of educating voters about a range of issues affecting immigrant communities.
Ten paid canvassers plan to knock on 7,000 doors, said Francesca Menes, policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a Miami-based group, which has a regional office in Tampa.
The coalition won’t formally endorse anyone, but will talk about positions of elected officials that support immigrants, she said.
Would one of positions be Mayor Rick Kriseman’s February declaration that St. Petersburg would be a sanctuary city?
“Exactly,” Menes said.
Kriseman later clarified that statement, acknowledging Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has the legal jurisdiction to decide whether to notify the federal government of an accused criminal’s immigration status.
The mayor made his statement shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to remove federal funding from cities and counties that willfully violate federal law regarding immigration.
Gualtieri criticized Kriseman’s statement, saying the county had no intention of non-compliance on immigration issues. Kriseman responded that his statement had clearly been a philosophical, not legal, declaration.
In a recent forum, former mayor Rick Baker, who is running against Kriseman, said he didn’t support St. Petersburg being a sanctuary city. Baker’s one-word response came during a “lightning” round which didn’t allow further explanation.
The coalition will educate voters about Kriseman’s action, said Menes. They will also call attention to a City Council resolution this year, sponsored by council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman that called for the city to make immigrants feel safe. Wheeler-Bowman has endorsed Kriseman’s reelection effort.
Other issues that are priorities for the group’s voter education campaign are “fair wages, access to quality education, climate justice, driver’s licenses for all, and the criminalization of black and brown communities,” according to a news release.
Election Day is four weeks away: Nov. 7.