A bill seeking to end Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status is moving in the Legislature in Harrisburg.
It pits a Pennsylvania lawmaker against the mayor.
State Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, said her legislation would “make sure that the city is held accountable for attracting illegal immigrants into our communities that can result in crimes against our citizens. We want to make sure our citizens are protected and, unfortunately right now, that is not happening.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, characterized it differently, saying the bill is nothing short of racial profiling and should never have been introduced.
“It’s a bill that chills the ability to fight crime when you are basically telling police officers to profile people based on their looks and check their immigration status,” he said. “That’s profiling, and people will run from the police.”
Kenney claimed White introduced the bill to curry favor with Republicans who support Donald Trump’s immigration platform.
White denied that allegation.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “We have seen many instances in which this sanctuary city policy that the mayor has put in place has resulted in our citizenry getting hurt. We’ve seen rape, there’s been murders across the country … it’s a bad policy.”
The bill could hold the city responsible for crimes committed by people who are in the country illegally. It would also prevent the city from codifying into law the current policy. Under the policy, in most cases, city police and prison officials are barred from notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before releasing undocumented immigrants from custody.
They are allowed to cooperate when ICE submits a warrant for someone with a felony conviction.
Kenney insists White’s bill is politically motivated and, if approved, will create headaches for the city.
“Are we looking for civil rights lawsuits?” he said. “There’s a whole plethora of problems this bill didn’t take into consideration because she’s trying to dog whistle for Donald Trump.”
The bill has been approved by a committee, but has a long way to go before becoming law.