Pennsylvania Introduces Anti-Sanctuary Legislation
FAIR Take | September 2020
Unlike other Northeastern states, Pennsylvania has repeatedly supported enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. In October 2019, it enacted mandatory E-Verify for the construction industry by large bipartisan majorities. Now there is legislation to rid Pennsylvania of dangerous sanctuary policies.
House Bill (HB) 2874, sponsored by Representative Ryan Warner (R-Fayette/Westmoreland) was introduced on September 18 and already has 16 cosponsors. In brief, it would:
- ban sanctuary policies by local governments and their agencies statewide;
- require honoring immigration detainers (which are issued by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold suspected illegal aliens in custody up to 48 hours after their release on state criminal charges);
- require that ICE be allowed access to jails in order to conduct interviews of suspected illegal aliens;
- ban any restrictions on information-sharing and cooperation with ICE;
- cut off state funds for a year to any local government with a sanctuary policy; and
- make local governments with sanctuary policies civilly liable for monetary damages caused by illegal aliens committing crimes after being released from their custody due to those policies.
A companion bill has not yet been filed in the Pennsylvania Senate. However, the Senate has previously passed anti-sanctuary legislation (SB 10) in 2017. SB 10 passed in less than a month by a vote of 37-12. Three Democrats joined all the Republicans to vote for SB 10. The legislative session ended before the House acted.
At that time, the bill's sponsor, then-Senator and now Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills) said “he wanted to stop cities and counties that were trying to “thwart federal efforts to combat illegal immigration.” He further added “that Kathryn Steinle, who was killed in San Francisco in 2015, would be still be alive if the city had honored the ICE detainer for the [illegal alien] who allegedly killed her.” Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) added that “the proposal [was] about upholding the rule of law.”
Anti-sanctuary legislation was also introduced in 2016. The bill sponsored by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), HB 1885, passed both chambers with slight differences but it died before those differences could be reconciled.
Pennsylvania’s most notorious sanctuary jurisdiction is Philadelphia. In September 2019, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) ranked it as the fourth-worst sanctuary in the country. IRLI cited numerous examples of the city essentially bending over backwards to protect criminal aliens. In 2018, FAIR identified 29 sanctuary cities and counties across the state in addition to Philadelphia. HB 2874 would end all of their sanctuary policies.
Governor Tom Wolf (D) has expressed “concerns" about anti-sanctuary legislation but he has never explicitly said he would veto such a bill if it were sent to him. It is possible that he will allow it to become law without his signature, as he did with the construction industry E-Verify bill. If he vetoes the bill, a significant number of Democrat legislators in each chamber will have to join all the Republicans to achieve the 2/3 supermajority required for an override. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 109-93 in the House and 28-21 in the Senate.