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October 19, 2016

Councilman: Sanctuary cities bill would cripple Philly's funding

Philly lawmaker fears legislation would devastate municipal services

Politics Sanctuary Cities
0711_Kenney_ICE_Immigration Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Jim Kenney advocates for "sanctuary city" policies during a rally at LOVE Park in July 2015.

A Philadelphia city councilman says legislation that would punish the city's sanctuary city status would devastate municipal services by withholding key state funding because of the controversial immigration policy.

House Bill 1885 passed with a vote of 136-55 Monday and is scheduled for a Senate Local Government Committee vote Wednesday morning. The legislation would hold municipalities with sanctuary city status liable for damages incurred by criminal activity conducted by unauthorized immigrants, require the city to comply with federal immigration requests and impose penalties for noncompliance.

Republican Councilman At-Large David Oh doesn't support Philadelphia's sanctuary city status, which bars local law enforcement from detaining unauthorized immigrants for federal immigration officials after local charges have been processed. 

However, Oh believes the clause in House Bill 1885 that allows the state treasurer to withhold funding for Philadelphia for not revoking its policy is a drastic measure and sets a dangerous precedent of allowing the state to cut off money when it disagrees with Philadelphia's policies.

"This is about much more than immigration, racial profiling and liability for damages," Matthew Pershe, legislative aide for Oh, said in an email. "This is about paralyzing Philadelphia’s funding, and therefore functionality, over one specific policy in Philadelphia with which the state legislature disagrees."

By estimates from Oh's office, if the law passed and the state treasurer followed through, Philly would lose about $2.7 billion, which would cripple vital services like police, school programs and transportation infrastructure.

Oh has introduced a City Council resolution that urges the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reject the proposal in House Bill 1885 that would allow the state to cut off funding.

The resolution notes that if state funding is ultimately withheld, it could harm people living in the district of House Bill 1885's primary sponsor, Republican state Rep. Martina White, who represents part of Northeast Philadelphia.