A bill that has immigration advocates concerned will lead to racial profiling and one Philadelphia lawmaker worried that it will have devastating consequences on the that city sailed past the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday.
By a 136-55 vote, the Republican-controlled House passed House Bill No. 1885, a “Sanctuaries Cities” bill that would broaden to police and local governments immigration enforcement powers.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Martina White (R‑Philadelphia), after Mayor Jim Kenney declared Philadelphia a “sanctuary city,” which by definition would grant sanctuary to undocumented immigrants from federal officials. HB 1885 would establish criminal and economic sanctions against any sanctuary city in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Councilman At-Large David Oh has expressed concerns that the bill would have dire implications for his city.
Last month the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution introduced by Oh opposing the language in HB1885 which essentially would withhold state funding to sanctuary cities.
Matthew Pershe, a spokesman for Oh’s office, said that while the councilman did not support Mayor Kenney’s sanctuary city executive order, he was concerned that the withholding of state funding – amounting to about $2.7 billion – would have an adverse effect on the city’s police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, as well as the transportation infrastructure and social services for seniors and children.
The damage would ultimately harm the region and state as well, Pershe said.
“This is about much more than immigration, racial profiling, and liability for damages,” Pershe said in an email to PennLive. “This is about paralyzing Philadelphia’s funding, and therefore functionality, over one specific policy in Philadelphia with which the state legislature disagrees.”
HB1885 is one of about three introduced in this session aimed at curbing illegal immigration throughout Pennsylvania. The bill would also permit and require municipal law enforcement officers to question individuals about their immigration status.
Under the bill, police officers who have reasonable cause to believe that someone being arrested is an undocumented immigrant can immediately report the individual to the appropriate U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. The bill would extend such powers to municipal agencies. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania has increased from 140,000 in 2009 to 180,000 in 2014.
Immigration reform advocates have decried the bill.
“Its strips people of their right to safety in the community,” Sheila Quintana, a member of Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania, said last week. “It is very much inspired by the rhetoric of hatred and goating that is going on in the national debate. This is not what makes communities safe.”
The bill now advances to the Senate. The current legislative session ends on Nov. 30.