The state Senate was so busy today voting on Republican agenda items and miscellany left over from last session that pols punted a bill that would strip so-called “sanctuary cities” of state grants.
“There aren’t specific concerns with the bill; there was just a lot to discuss today,” said Jennifer Kocher, spokesperson for Majority Leader Jake Corman, who said the bill was once again referred to the Appropriations Committee for a vote next week.
SB-10, introduced by Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and 22 Republican co-sponsors, would withhold state grants to “municipalities of refuge” – frequently described as “sanctuary cities.” Nineteen municipalities in the state currently decline to prosecute immigrants for violating federal immigration laws.
The bill would also make municipalities liable for damages caused by undocumented immigrants, withhold proceeds from state auctions and bar the passage of future refuge ordinances.
Sanctuary cities have become a frequent GOP talking point, largely over inferences that the ordinances allow criminals without legal residency to roam free. Republican US Sen. Pat Toomey has proposed similar legislation in Congress that would withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.
Undocumented immigrants make up 1.7 percent of the state’s population, according to a 2013 Pew estimate.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement criticizing the bill in Harrisburg, citing crime rates that have hovered near historic lows.
“I urge my colleagues in the statehouse who may disagree with Philadelphia's sanctuary policy to recognize that policy agreements should not be settled by defunding entire municipalities,” he wrote.
The statement alleged that SB-10 would punish undocumented immigrants who cooperated with police. Kocher said this was false.
“SB-10 would not affect those people,” she said. “It only impacts and requires a check with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if someone has already been arrested.”