Philadel­phia lat­est to sue over sanc­tu­ary con­di­tions

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - NEWS - By Er­rin Haines Whack

Philadel­phia on Wed­nes­day be­came the lat­est “sanc­tu­ary city” to sue At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions over what of­fi­cials say are un­con­sti­tu­tional im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions placed on a ma­jor fed­eral grant.

The city is ask­ing the court to stop Ses­sions from adding these con­di­tions to a its Ed­ward Byrne Me­mo­rial Jus­tice As­sis­tance grant, which it uses to pay po­lice over­time, up­grade equip­ment and court­room tech­nol­ogy and train of­fi­cers.

Philadel­phia’s so-called “sanc­tu­ary” sta­tus has made it a fre­quent tar­get of the at­tor­ney gen­eral. Ses­sions in July said cities and states can only re­ceive the grants if they al­low fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to ac­cess de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties, and that they must pro­vide ad­vance no­tice when some­one in the coun­try il­le­gally is about to be re­leased.

Ses­sions sin­gled out nine ju­ris­dic­tions, in­clud­ing Philadel­phia, as not com­ply­ing with fed­eral law re­gard­ing im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. Chicago, Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco also have sued over the grant con­di­tions.

Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney has fre­quently de­fended the city’s law en­force­ment ap­proach to il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, and the municipality has main­tained that it is in com­pli­ance with fed­eral re­quire­ments. The law­suit refers to Philadel­phia’s “vi­brant im­mi­grant community” as a vital part of its work­force and says the city has adopted poli­cies “that seek to fos­ter trust be­tween the im­mi­gra­tion pop­u­la­tion and city of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees.” As a rule, Philadel­phia of­fi­cers do not ask res­i­dents about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

Ken­ney called the con­di­tions im­posed by Ses­sions “purely po­lit­i­cal” and un­re­lated to safety.

“We will not let this ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ter­fere with our long­stand­ing ef­forts to bring mem­bers of Philadel­phia’s im­mi­grant community from the shad­ows,” Ken­ney said, adding that crime is down in in the city.

Devin O’Mal­ley, a spokesman for the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, said the city is do­ing a dis­ser­vice to its res­i­dents “by pro­tect­ing crim­i­nal aliens rather than law-abid­ing cit­i­zens.”

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