Why Philadelphia must remain a sanctuary city

Jim Kenney is shown while he was running for mayor in 2015

Jim Kenney is shown while he was running for mayor in 2015

The word “sanctuary” conjures images of safety, freedom, and protection. It’s something the City of Brotherly Love has historically fought for, beginning with our founding fathers’ decree of inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. More than 200 years after these ideals became the foundation for America, President-elect Trump has threatened to revoke them for many people who call Philadelphia home — and to punish our city in the process by cutting federal funding as long as we stay a sanctuary city.

Although Mayor Kenney has thankfully come forward to state his intention to keep Philadelphia a sanctuary for our immigrant communities, there has been a great deal of backlash. Naysayers are stoking fears of felonious undocumented immigrants roving about town recklessly committing crimes with no recourse. This just simply isn’t the case. Our sanctuary status means we don’t detain on behalf of the federal government immigrants who have violated federal immigration laws.

In fact, sanctuary status can actually lower the crime rate — when undocumented immigrants feel they can call the police without fear of investigation into their immigration status, they are more likely to report crimes. And this of course goes beyond calling the police when something’s amiss. This mutual trust can also help people feel more connected to their community.

But sometimes, appealing to reason doesn’t work. So we’ll appeal to emotion, too. We need to remember that part of the reason so many new Philadelphians, documented and otherwise, have chosen to make this their home is its rich diversity and openness. We come here from farms, towns, and cities, from outside of national borders or from just over the bridge. We are entrepreneurs, teachers, lawyers, union members, and service industry workers. We came here with the hopes of improving our stations in life, and contributing to the fabric of Philadelphia. Thanks to our diverse residents, that fabric is increasingly interwoven, complex, and beautiful.

As Philadelphians, we’re known for grit and determination. We don’t back down from our convictions. Now is not the time to start because of threats — especially when our friends and neighbors could suffer the consequences of our silence. Many fellow sanctuary cities have come forward to reject Trump’s proposed actions, so let’s continue to stand with them in solidarity. Beyond voicing your support and thanking Mayor Kenney for his actions thus far, you can also get involved directly with organizations fighting for the rights of our immigrant communities, such as Juntos or New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.

If this city is to become a true world-class city — which we aspire to be — we need to continually foster the diversity and inclusion that is integral to urban vitality. Do we really want to be the kind of city that closes its doors on the ideals that are the very foundation of this country? When we look back on this era of American politics, we hope to see that our city stood up for and supported all of its residents.

All three writers live in South Philadelphia. Dalice Shilshtut works in real estate, Molly Malone works in marketing, and Matt Slusser works in advertising.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.