Martina White: The It Girl of Red Philadelphia

Martina White at Aldo’s Pizzarama in Somerton. Photograph by Neal Santos

Martina White knew this was coming.

Less than two weeks before the most shocking presidential election in modern history, the Republican lawmaker was sitting at a gym in Northeast Philadelphia, debating Matt Darragh, a Democrat trying to unseat her from the General Assembly.

Then, just as expected, Darragh said the words that have followed White since day one: Donald Trump. He accused her of exploiting the “same sentiments” as Trump and embracing his “direction for the United States.” An activist in the audience saw a connection, too: Standing between two basketball hoops, she waved a sign that read STOP TRUMPMARTINA. Read more »

This Anti-Immigration Bill Has Stalled In Harrisburg — And It Should Stay Stalled

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A poster from an all-night vigil celebrating Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status, which took place October 21st through October 22nd at the northeast corner of City Hall. | Photo by Peter Pedemonti

Philly Republican state Rep. Martina White’s controversial HB 1885 bill, which would penalize and make liable municipalities with sanctuary city protections in place for undocumented residents, did not come to a vote yesterday, the last voting day of Pennsylvania’s legislative year.

That’s good news. Under HB 1885’s aegis, police would be required to determine and report the immigration status of every arrest when there is “reasonable cause to believe” that person is undocumented — something which would codify and institutionalize racial profiling, especially of Latinxs.

Human rights and immigrants’ advocates, as well as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, have long maintained that the bill would compromise public safety and weaken community policing by making it less likely for undocumented residents to report crimes perpetrated against them, or which they’ve witnessed, for fear that it might lead to detention.

“[It] denies municipalities’ autonomy to make agreements that protect victims and witnesses from being probed about immigration status,” Peter Pedemonti, director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, wrote in a statement released October 20th. “[And] requires that any municipal employee not be denied the ability to inquire and report the immigration status of any individual. This would make every municipal building, including our schools, traffic courts and health clinics, sites where immigrants can be harassed by any employee without protection from their towns and cities.” Read more »

State Legislators Approve Bill Limiting Police Transparency in Pennsylvania

istockphoto.com, catnap72

istockphoto.com, catnap72

Last week, we told you about three controversial bills being fast-tracked through the Pennsylvania legislature.

One of them, a bill that would limit police transparency, is perhaps the most controversial of the three given national dialogue surrounding fatal and contentious police shootings of unarmed minorities – mostly black men. Read more »

Right Now, Philly Politics Is Even More Disheartening Than Usual for Latinxs

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L: State Rep. Leslie Acosta (Image via video from PA House) R: State Rep. Martina White (Photo via White’s Facebook)

It’s a really hard time to be a Latina and a local politics wonk.

Leslie Acosta — one of two Latino state lawmakers from Philly, and the only Latina in the state legislature — has been convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering. She hasn’t been sentenced yet, and is reportedly cooperating with the prosecution of Renee Tartaglione, her former boss at a Fairhill mental health clinic who has been charged by the feds with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding. (Tartaglione has pleaded not guilty.)

Acosta is the daughter of a politician, as is Tartaglione, and both are heavily enmeshed in legacy politics that seem as unscrupulous as they are melodramatic: full of feuds and deals cut over the Puerto Rican version of a cortadito.

Now, the thing about Acosta is that she had appeared, mostly, to be above the mischief and trash talk of Barrio politics, and came off as earnest, thoughtful and affable. So much so, in fact, that it began to appear possible that there would be some sort of détente enacted between the Democratic machine-backed Acosta and the fiercely independent councilwoman the Democratic machine loves to hate, María Quiñones-Sánchez.

But the promise Acosta offered — and the possibility of two industrious Latina pols working in concert to better the lot of some of the poorest residents of the city — has gone up in smoke.

As a Latina who writes about a Latinx community that is too often neglected and far too often underestimated, the disappointment I feel is more than just personal. Read more »

WATCH: NE Philly Rep. White Clashes with Immigration Activists

Al Día has posted a video showing Northeast Philly State Rep. Martina White yelling at immigrants’ rights activists in her Harrisburg office.

Last month, White introduced a bill that would hold sanctuary cities — ones that bar local cooperation with federal immigration authorities — “liable for damages on account of an injury to a person or property as a result of criminal activity by an unauthorized alien.” Read more »

Should Cops Who Shoot Civilians Be Named?

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State Rep. Martina White (left) is planning to introduce a bill that would prevent police officers involved in shootings from being publicly named.  | Photo via White’s Facebook

In the wake of the deaths of Brandon Tate-Brown, Michael Brown and many others, an important question has been raised: Should the public know the names of police officers who shoot civilians?

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced in July that the department would name the cops involved in most police shootings, which was a victory for activists who have been calling for greater police accountability. But mere hours after Ramsey unveiled the new policy, the city’s police union challenged it, arguing that it both puts officers’ lives at risk and violates collective-bargaining rights.

Now, state Rep. Martina White plans to introduce legislation that would put the kibosh on the Ramsey’s policy. The Philadelphia Daily News reported this morning, “John McNesby, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, is expected to join state Rep. Martina White Wednesday to outline a bill to prevent the release of officers’ names and identifying information — except in cases where they are charged with a crime as a result of the shooting.” Read more »

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