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PA immigration bill would lead to racial profiling; measure resembles fearsome Arizona law

The head of a statewide immigration rights advocacy group is denouncing a proposed  immigration bill modeled after one of the most fearsome anti-immigration measures in the country.

Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, on Wednesday urged members of the Senate to strike down House Bill 1885, which she said will lead to racial profiling in Pennsylvania and incur adverse economic consequences.

“It should not pass,” Carter said. “It’s bad public policy. It should not be brought to vote and the Senators should recognize that it’s bad public policy and should not be brought to vote but if it’s brought to vote, it should fail.”

HB 1885, a “Sanctuaries Cities” bill, passed the Republican-controlled House on Tuesday by a 136-55 vote. One of about three introduced in this session aimed at curbing illegal immigration throughout Pennsylvania, the bill would extend to local law enforcement agencies new broad powers to enforce immigration law, including permitting and requiring municipal law enforcement officers to question individuals about their immigration status.

Moreover, local law enforcement agents would be permitted to stop someone whom they suspected lacked legal immigration status. Police would be required, under the law, to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials anyone they suspected lacked legal immigration status.

“This is basically opening up to rampant racial profiling,” Carter said. “You can’t tell someone’s legal status by looking at them. The question becomes how law enforcement would establish that someone isn’t document. Are they going to be asking everyone with an accent or anyone who looks Latino? That’s a very problematic provision.”

Sanctuary bill sails by House; bill raises concerns for Philadelphia and immigration advocates

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Martina White (R‑Philadelphia), after Mayor Jim Kenney declared Philadelphia a “sanctuary city”.  A sanctuary city by definition grants sanctuary and shelter to undocumented immigrants.

HB 1885 is markedly similar to a largely failed legislation in Arizona – Senate bill 1070.

Last month, amid lawsuits and threats of boycotts, Arizona announced it was ending its practice of requiring police officers to demand the papers of people suspected of being in the country illegally. The move largely stunts what was once considered one of the country’s most fearsome immigration law.

Arizona’s decision to dismantle the law came as part of a settlement with the National Immigration Law Center and other immigrants’ rights groups – all of whom sued after the bill passed. In addition to raising the ire of immigration activists, Arizona’s measure engendered calls for boycotts of Arizona, including from liberal cities.

Carter said Pennsylvania’s bill would open municipalities up to liability, in the instances where law enforcement officials released an individual who had no immigration status and that individual proceeded to commit a crime.

“It’s a broad bill that opens municipalities to a pretty broad range of potential lawsuits and damages,” she said.

HB 1885 has been denounced by Philadelphia Councilman At-Large David Oh, who this week expressed concerns that the bill would have dire implications for his city.

The proposed measure stipulates that state funding would be withheld from sanctuary cities – which in the case of Philadelphia amounts to $2.7 billion. The Philadelphia City Council last month passed a resolution introduced by Oh opposing the measure’s language.

Philadelphia and 32 counties, in fact, have in place local policies holding that local law enforcement agencies will not hold people in custody longer than they would anyone else. The policies generally state that agencies will release someone in temporary custody unless ICE officials give the local law enforcement agency a warrant for that individual.

Carter said she was disappointed at the number of Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the measure. The anti-immigration push in Pennsylvania – as in much of the country – has been widely supported by Republicans.

“Democrats hold themselves out to be supporting of immigration rights but by this vote they are showing that is not true,” Carter said. “If you don’t take the time to look at the bill and think about what it means…people will say ‘yes I’m for public safety’ but this is not what it’s about. It’s a racial profiling bill.”

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