Kenney vows to fight Pa. sanctuary cities bill

Mayor Jim Kenney reacts to the Pennsylvania Senate bill that would cut off state funding to sanctuary cities like Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney reacts to the Pennsylvania Senate bill that would cut off state funding to sanctuary cities like Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is vowing to fight a bill to punish “sanctuary cities” that is working its way through the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The legislation, which passed in the state Senate Wednesday, would cut off state grants for Philadelphia and other communities that limit local law enforcement cooperation with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. 

As the bill heads to the House — where it may languish before lawmakers take it up for a vote — Kenney said the city is exploring what “legal protections” it may have. 

“We’re doing our best to figure out a strategy to fight that back at the House,” he said. “Hopefully, we won’t get to a point of having to negotiate or figure out a veto … and then we’re going to have to figure out what is possibly on the line when it comes to the funding.”

A Senate analysis found Philadelphia could lose $638 million in state funding if the legislation passes.

“We’re talking about funds for abused children, transportation, schools,” said Kenney. 

Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether the mayor will find a partner in the fight in Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who has not come out strongly for or against the legislation. 

But Kenney said he remains hopeful.

“I’m hoping as a progressive Democrat who has connections to the city of Philadelphia would understand our situation currently and be on our side, and I’m hopeful that he will be,” he said.

Wolf’s spokesman said in a statement Wednesday the governor has “concerns” about the bill and the impact potential funding cuts could have on state residents.

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