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Holding Illegal Alien Sanctuary Cities Accountable
By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Legislation I co-sponsored to would establish legal and economic sanctions against any illegal alien “sanctuary city” within this Commonwealth was approved by a veto-proof bipartisan majority the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week.

In January, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney declared Philadelphia a “sanctuary city,” meaning it would protect illegal aliens and refuse to turn them over to federal officials to answer for their crime of entering our country illegally. The dangerous and irrevocable consequences of this reckless policy came to light in July, when Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa, an illegal alien who was released by Philadelphia police despite a federal detainer request from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was charged with raping a child.

This prompted Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) to introduce House Bill 1885, legislation that would hold cities and municipalities liable for damages caused by so-called “unauthorized aliens” who commit a crime in so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Under federal law, any non-U.S. citizen is an alien. Aliens who have entered the United States without permission, or who have violated the terms of their admission, are identified under the law as illegal aliens.

According to U.S. law, it is a crime to enter the United States without permission. The first offense is a misdemeanor, the second offense is a felony.

Since Rep. White introduced her bill, the issue has received bipartisan support, including from President Barack Obama’s administration, and former Philadelphia mayors Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, all of whom have spoken out against Philadelphia’s policy.

White’s legislation would hold responsible any sanctuary city in Pennsylvania for the damages to persons or property as a result of criminal activity by illegal aliens if:
• It has been determined by federal immigration officials that the person who engaged in the criminal activity is an illegal alien.

• The illegal alien is a resident of the sanctuary municipality.
• The illegal alien is convicted of the crime.
• The criminal activity is a proximate cause of the injury.
The legislation also would prohibit any restrictions on an official or employee of a municipality from:
• Sending to or receiving from federal immigration officials any information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of an individual.
• Exchanging information, with regard to an individual, with other federal agencies, state agencies or municipalities.
• Requesting an applicant for state or local public benefits to provide proof of eligibility.

Under the bill approved this week, if a law enforcement officer of a municipality has reasonable cause to believe an individual under arrest is not legally in the United States, the officer must immediately report the individual to the appropriate federal authorities.
There should be no economic rewards, public benefits or employment privileges for any government entity or individual who is guilty of breaking our nation’s immigration laws. Final passage of this legislation will send a clear message that protecting the economic and national security interests of law-abiding Pennsylvania citizens and legal immigrants must always come first.

The veto-proof vote of 136-55 sends the legislation to the state Senate, where I hope it will be acted on quickly. Gov. Tom Wolf has not yet signaled whether he will sign or veto the bill, but the representatives of the people of this Commonwealth have spoken loudly. Let’s hope Mr. Wolf is listening.
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