Billy Penn in Harrisburg

Where Philly’s state legislators stand on immigration

Rep. Martina White’s office expects her bill with repercussions for “sanctuary cities” will get a vote this session.

Angela Gervasi / Billy Penn

HARRISBURG — Philadelphia is home to more than 200,000 people who weren’t born U.S. citizens.

About half of those people have gone through the naturalization process, according to census info, while the other half have not. A quarter of Philly’s immigrants — around 50,000 people — are believed to be undocumented.

Local leaders like Mayor Jim Kenney have loudly and proudly declared Philadelphia to be a “welcoming city” to immigrants, which in practice means police don’t ask about immigration status and the prison system doesn’t honor detainers (or hold requests) from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The city, however, will hold someone for ICE if there’s a criminal warrant issued by a judge.

Philadelphia scored a victory against the Trump administration recently when a judge ruled the feds can’t withhold money for law enforcement because of the city’s immigration policies. Kenney was so happy he danced.

But there are still efforts in Harrisburg to punish municipalities like Philadelphia for these policies — efforts that are sometimes led and supported by the city’s own representatives.

Perhaps the most prominent local opponent is Northeast state Rep. Martina White, who is again leading the charge on a bill to force municipalities like Philadelphia to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

House Bill 28 states:

The governing body of a municipality may not adopt an ordinance, regulation or plan or take any other action that limits or prohibits a public official, employee or law enforcement officer of the municipality from communicating or cooperating with an appropriate public official, employee or law enforcement officer of the Federal government concerning the immigration status of an individual in this Commonwealth.

The Republican’s bill would also make these municipalities liable for damages caused by undocumented people who are released by local police — despite an ICE detainer request — then convicted of a crime.

“We expect a vote on HB 28 soon,” a White staffer said by email this week, “but with the upcoming budget debate we have no set date.”

White introduced similar legislation during the 2015-16 session that got votes in both chambers, but did not make it to the governor’s desk before the session ended.

Of the Philly state senators in office at the time of the vote, only Democrat John Sabatina Jr. voted in favor of the legislation. In a press release explaining his stance on another immigration bill, Sabatina Jr. said he does “not believe that the ‘sanctuary city’ designation keeps citizens safe.”

In the House, he was joined in his Yea vote by Philly’s Republicans as well as Democrats Ed Neilson and Michael Driscoll, who both ran unopposed in the most recent primary.

To get a broad sense of where Philadelphia’s legislators in Harrisburg stand on immigration, Billy Penn looked at their votes and sponsorships on a handful of related legislation.

PA House

This map shows the representative voted on White’s House Bill 1885, which would punish “sanctuary municipalities” when undocumented persons are convicted of certain crimes and compel these areas to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Pretty stark divide. Check the details by clicking on the different districts, or in the chart below, which also includes whether the representative co-sponsored:

  • HB 28, which is essentially a reintroduction of HB 1885.
  • State Rep. Chris Rabb’s HB 1604, which would limit local law enforcement cooperation with immigration enforcement agencies.
  • State Rep. Angel Cruz’s House Resolution 491, which decried the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA.

Representative District Party Vote to punish sanctuary municipalities Co-sponsor bill to punish sanctuary municipalities? Co-sponsor bill limiting local cooperation with ICE?
Supported resolution condemning Trump’s end of DACA?
Thomas Murt District 152 Republican Yea
Martina White District 170 Republican Yea Introduced
Kevin J. Boyle District 172 Democrat No vote recorded
Michael Driscoll District 173 Democrat Yea
Ed Neilson District 174 Democrat Yea
Michael O’Brien District 175 Democrat Nay
John Taylor District 177 Republican Yea Yes
Jason Dawkins District 179 Democrat Nay
Angel Cruz District 180 Democrat Nay Yes Introduced
W. Curtis Thomas District 181 Democrat Nay Yes
Brian Sims District 182 Democrat Nay
William Keller District 184 Democrat Nay
Maria Donatucci District 185 Democrat Nay Yes Yes
Jordan Harris District 186 Democrat Nay Yes
James R. Roebuck Jr. District 188 Democrat Nay Yes Yes
Vanessa Lowery Brown District 190 Democrat Nay Yes Yes
Joanna McClinton District 191 Democrat Nay Yes
Morgan Cephas District 192 Democrat Not in office
Pamela DeLissio District 194 Democrat Nay
Donna Bullock District 195 Democrat Nay
Emilio A. Vazquez District 197 Democrat Not in office Yes Yes
Rosita Youngblood District 198 Democrat Nay Yes Yes
Chris Rabb District 200 Democrat Not in office Introduced
Stephen Kinsey District 201 Democrat Nay Yes
Jared Solomon District 202 Democrat Not in office Yes
Isabella Fitzgerald District 203 Democrat Not in office Yes

PA Senate

Here’s the map for the state senate, showing how senators voted on White’s bill to punish “sanctuary municipalities.”

Details below, along with notes on:

  • How the senator voted on state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler’s SB 10, which would prevent municipalities from adopting sanctuary policies regarding immigrants.
  • If the senator co-sponsored state Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr.’s SB 273, which would withhold state funding from so-called sanctuary campuses.

Senator District Party Vote on bill to punish sanctuary municipalities Vote on bill to prevent sanctuary city designations
Co-sponsor bill to withhold funding from sanctuary campuses?
Lawrence M. Farnese Jr. District 1 Democrat Nay Nay No
Christine M. Tartaglione District 2 Democrat No vote recorded No vote recorded No
Sharif Street District 3 Democrat Not in office Nay No
Art Haywood District 4 Democrat Nay Nay No
John P. Sabatina Jr. District 5 Democrat Yea Nay No
Vincent J. Hughes District 7 Democrat Nay Nay No
Anthony H. Williams District 8 Democrat Nay Nay No

Want some more? Explore other Billy Penn in Harrisburg stories.

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