In the wake of a San Francisco homicide that sparked a heated immigration-policy debate, Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey declared that “Philadelphia will not be a sanctuary city” if she’s elected.
Her statement was brought on by the case of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a felony record who has been deported to Mexico five times, and stands charged in the fatal July 1 shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco.
San Francisco, like Philadelphia, is a “sanctuary city ” where local law enforcement does not ask for a suspect’s immigration status. Per a controversial executive order signed by Mayor Michael Nutter last year, police do not hold undocumented immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, either.
While Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney said he will continue Philadelphia’s non-cooperation policy with ICE, Bailey said she will not.
Her full statement, released Friday night, appears below:
I am outraged by the recent shooting of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco and my deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.
What’s worse, this crime could have been prevented. We have to do a better job protecting people.
By declaring Philadelphia a sanctuary city and not detaining illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a violent crime, we are putting the citizens of Philadelphia at risk. More than one in three federal crimes committed in 2014 were committed by people who are in the US illegally.
To be clear, I am a proponent of immigration policies and practices that are clear, fair, and humane. As a mother, I don’t fault parents for trying to provide a better life for their family.
Lawmakers in Washington have dragged their feet far too long in resolving this issue leading some cities, including Philadelphia, to determine themselves safe cities. Providing a safe harbor in Philadelphia for illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes is the wrong choice.
The recent homicide in San Francisco underscores what is on the line for Philadelphia. By allowing illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes to stay in our city we are proclaiming, “Come to Philadelphia, because even if you are in the country illegally and committing crimes there is a place for you here.”
As part of a Bailey administration, Philadelphia will not be a sanctuary city. I will put the safety of people first and support policies that provide a pathway for law abiding immigrants to obtain legal status.
Kenney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the former councilman disagrees wholeheartedly.
Jim has stated that he will continue Philadelphia’s non-cooperation policy with ICE.
The current policy allows ICE officers with judicial warrants to arrest individuals with violent criminal histories, while also building trust between community members and police that allows undocumented Philadelphians to feel safe reporting crimes in their neighborhood and assisting police in their investigations.
It is for that reason that over 20 cities and counties have also adopted this policy.
On Wednesday afternoon, United Voices for Philadelphia sent an open letter to Murray imploring her to reconsider her position (PDF).
In it, the “group determined to make sure that voices of immigrants, under-represented minorities and their supporters are heard by elected officials and those seeking office” wrote:
We, the organizers of United Voices for Philadelphia, strongly oppose your stance on removing Philadelphia as a Sanctuary City if you are elected Mayor. We call on you to reconsider and change your position. …
As Philadelphians, we seek leaders who bring us together to celebrate our strength in diversity and urge you to separate yourself from the divisive and racist rhetoric that only serves to dehumanize us from each other. We ask again that you reconsider your position on this issue and we would be happy to meet with you to further discuss.