Update, 5 p.m.: Senate Bill 10 was pulled from the Senate Appropriations Committee agenda this afternoon.
The Pennsylvania Senate is scheduled to consider a bill today that would defund Philadelphia and other “sanctuary cities” in the commonwealth. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the first steps in the process of passing new legislation.
Senate Bill 10 would ban Pennsylvania’s cities from adopting “sanctuary” policies (generally, this means not checking into someone’s immigration status, and not complying with federal detention orders). According to a memorandum from bill sponsor Guy Reschenthaler, it bans cities and counties from adopting “a rule, order, ordinance or policy under which it prohibits the enforcement of the laws of the Commonwealth or federal laws pertaining to immigrants or immigrations, including the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.”
SB 10 would also ban sanctuary cities and counties from receiving any state grants. (This has already been strengthened; the initial sponsorship memorandum would only strip states of grants for law enforcement.) The bill would also give certain people legal standing to sue municipalities over their sanctuary status.
“This misguided attempt at preserving ‘human rights’ ultimately threatens the safety of citizens legally residing in their communities,” Reschenthaler, a former JAG who represents part of the Pittsburgh suburbs, wrote in his sponsorship memo.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, in a statement, urged senators to reject Senate Bill 10.
“I urge my colleagues in the statehouse who may disagree with Philadelphia’s sanctuary policy to recognize that policy agreements should not be settled by defunding entire municipalities,” Kenney wrote. “It is an extreme reaction to a policy that hundreds of localities, including 19 in Pennsylvania, have been forced to adopt as a result of our broken national immigration system. In Philadelphia, it has enabled our law enforcement to drive down crime to a 40-year low, by providing immigrants who come forward to report crimes or act as witnesses sanctuary.”
There’s only a little data that sanctuary city policies reduce crime and encourage cooperation with the police, but it is logical: People scared the police will check into their immigration status are likely to avoid the cops altogether. Data on criminality of immigrants is, again, not great; but most studies show immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans.
Opponents of sanctuary city policies often point to specific crimes committed by undocumented immigrants who were previously in local law enforcement custody as the primary reason for their opposition. Reschenthaler cites the 2015 shooting of Kathryn Steinle in his memo.
Kenney cites 19 cities and counties in Pennsylvania that have adopted sanctuary policies. The counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery have all adopted some elements of sanctuary city policies, as has Abington Township. An anti-sanctuary city group includes the entire five-county Philadelphia area on its list, which also includes 19 cities and counties.
“I urge Pennsylvanians who have been unsettled by what they’ve seen in recent days to call the Governor and state legislators,” Kenney’s statement continued. “Tell them that you don’t want the White House policies that have sent our nation into chaos and threatened the very principles upon which our nation was built codified into Commonwealth law.”