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Philly not budging despite Trump attacks over 'sanctuary city' policy

Arrests are high and the city is still being sued in court for its policies against law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities.
ICE agents conducting part of four days of raids that involved 107 arrests in Philly. (Courtesy of ICE)

Philadelphia is hanging onto its sanctuary city policies, even as President Trump has followed up his campaign tough talk on immigration with very real attacks on cities like Philadelphia that don't align with his vision.

The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing its fight against Philly in the courts. They recently appealed a decision that said the department could not punish Philadelphia for being a sanctuary city by withholding an estimated $1.6 million in grants that went in past years toward funding things like Narcan, training and overtime.

“We’ve received notice that the DOJ has appealed Judge Baylson’s ruling, and we will vigorously defend the Judge’s well-reasoned decision," a city spokesperson responded in an email.

Meanwhile, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has been making more arrests than ever, and has actively targeted sanctuary cities.

In 2017, there were some 5,000 arrests in the Philly enforcement area, which includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware, up from 3,600 the previous year.

ICE nabbed 107 people in Philadelphia in one four-day raid last year, the highest-single-city total of an operation that netted 500 arrests nationwide.

Philly has shown no interest in changing its policy, which Kenney previously defended as "practices that keep our communities safe and provide victims and witnesses the security to come forward.”

ICE acknowledged it was targeting sanctuary cities in 2017: acting Director Tom Homan said they were “focused on cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons.”

"ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security," ICE officials told Metro on Thursday. "ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States."

Immigrant community activists with Juntos said the government is itself disturbing public safety with its retaliatory tactics toward Philadelphia.

 

"The vendetta that Sessions, the DOJ, and ICE have against the city of Philadelphia is detrimental to the safety of all those who call our city home," a spokesman for the group said. "Because we refuse to follow through with Trump's racist and anti-immigrant agenda we now have unaccountable and rogue ICE agents picking people up at gunpoint outside of their homes and raiding stores with customers inside. It is the federal government that is truly creating a public safety issue in our city."

Homan said in a recent televised interview that politicians, like Mayor Kenney, who enact sanctuary city policies should face criminal charges.

He also orchestrated a recent dawn-time raid of dozens 7-Elevens across the nation on Jan. 10 to arrest undocumented workers.

Some 21 immigrants were found working at the 98 7-Elevens and detained by ICE agents, in what was widely touted as a warning to other companies with undocumented workers. (7-Eleven responded in a statement that individual franchise owners were responsible, not the company).

By the numbers

3,672
Administrative arrests in the Philly enforcement area in 2016

4,938
Administrative arrests in the Philly enforcement area in 2017