Sanctuary City Punishment Bill Moves Forward

On Wednesday, a bill targeting Philadelphia and other municipalities in Pennsylvania, which refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in detention without criminal warrants, moved on from a state House committee. The bill, intended to punish so-called ‘sanctuary cities,’ was passed in 2017 by the PA Senate. The new approval now sees it heading for a vote on the floor of the House.

But, the bill that has emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee is different from the original. The original bill submitted by Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican Senator from Allegheny County, proposed that all state grants should be withheld from sanctuary cities, a term applied to any municipality allowing an immigrant to be released from detention despite Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issuing a detainer request.

Many Pennsylvania municipalities, including Philadelphia, currently refuse to enforce the detainers because they are not criminal warrants signed by a judge. An amendment to the bill made by the representative, Ron Marsico, has removed the punishment for non-cooperation proposed by Reschenthaler. The bill will now instead threaten lawsuits to try to force municipalities to comply with ICE detainer requests.

The new amendments would also bar municipalities from passing their own policies contradicting the mandate, such as banning law enforcement from giving information to immigration authorities, assisting ICE with the enforcement of immigration laws, and allowing immigration authorities to enter county correctional facilities.