Sanctuary Cities Bill That Could Defund Philly Clears Pa. Senate

The Republican-sponsored legislation puts the city at risk of losing at least $638 million of vital funding – and it’s coasting through state legislature.

istockphoto.com, catnap72

istockphoto.com, catnap72

A bill that could drastically restrict state funding to so-called sanctuary cities like Philadelphia has cleared the Pennsylvania Senate.

State lawmakers yesterday pushed the controversial bill onto the House in a 37-12 vote. Senate Bill 10, known as the Municipal Sanctuary and Federal Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, would bar municipalities from adopting so-called “sanctuary” policies that refer to the refusal to comply with federal detention orders issued by Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. 

Municipalities that do not yield to the bill would be barred from receiving any state grants. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has already stated that, despite the bill, he does not intend to alter the city’s sanctuary status – meaning that if the bill were to pass, the city could lose more than $638 million of vital funding, according to legislation sponsors.

The state currently supplies so-called sanctuary cities in Pennsylvania with about $1.3 billion, according to the bill’s sponsors. In addition to stripping state funding from sanctuary cities, SB 10 would allow some people to sue municipalities with sanctuary policies.

The bill and its supporters have been vilified by those who deem it unjust and potentially detrimental to municipalities like Philadelphia. Kenney said in a statement denouncing the legislation that “policy disagreements should not be settled by defunding entire municipalities. 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.”

Local officials and immigrants groups have expressed concern that the bill would weaken the relationship between immigrants and law enforcement by discouraging undocumented immigrants to come forward with knowledge about crimes. The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, responded by saying that the legislation “only pertains to undocumented immigrants who are in police custody pursuant to a lawful arrest,” according to NewsWorks.

Republicans like Reschenthaler and Sen. Pat Toomey frequently reference particularly heinous crimes committed by undocumented immigrants when stating their support for the bill. But most studies conclude that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S.

Councilman Darrell Clarke has pushed for city officials to consider easing Philadelphia’s sanctuary policies to comply with SB 10, in the event that it should pass.

“While I believe in individuals’ rights regardless of their citizenry, the simple reality is we cannot lose federal and state funding,” Clarke said last week, according to the Inquirer.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

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