Philly to Remain “Sanctuary City” Despite Threats From Sessions

A Kenney spokesperson said the city has "very skilled outside counsel helping us evaluate what the real threats to funding are."


L: Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a file photo. (Alex Brandon/AP) | R: Mayor Jim Kenney (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Mayor’s Office has responded to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘s threat to cut federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. 

In a statement issued yesterday, Kenney spokesperson Lauren Hitt said Sessions’s warning “did not present any issues we were not already evaluating, and we have very skilled outside counsel helping us evaluate what the real threats to funding are and what our legal options are.”

During a White House news briefing yesterday, Sessions said the Department of Justice will no longer offer grants to so-called “sanctuary cities,” which are often referred to as cities that do not fully comply with federal immigration laws. He specifically referred to cities in defiance of 8 U.S. Code § 1373, which mandates that all jurisdictions must communicate with federal agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Sessions’s words echoed an executive order on immigration signed by President Donald Trump in January, which threatened to strip multiple streams of federal funding from sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.

Despite the warnings Kenney has joined officials from other cities across the country in standing by the city’s immigration policy.

“The Attorney General’s comments today are a direct attack on public safety,” Hitt said. “He is threatening to take away money from police departments for what amounts to nothing more than good police work. Undocumented residents and their family members are much less likely to call law enforcement when they are a witness to or a victim of a crime if they know that the police will turn them in to ICE. And if residents can’t call the police, then it is extremely difficult to get criminals off the street. If we are forced to change Philadelphia’s policy on this, all of our residents will be less safe.”

Hitt told that in 2015, the city received $26 million in DOJ grants, which contribute to various law enforcement purposes. The Mayor’s Office doesn’t believe that the funding is threatened, though – Hitt said the guidelines reiterated by Sessions yesterday were already in place under former President Barack Obama.

Despite Sessions’s warning, Hitt says the city has no plans to change its policy.

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