Kenney: Philadelphia to remain a sanctuary city - for now

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Under portraits of some of the 98 mayors who served before him, Mayor Jim Kenney signs an executive order making Philadelphia a "sanctuary city" following his inauguration Jan. 4, 2016. City Councilwoman Helen Gym raises a fist to signal her approval.

Mayor Kenney said Thursday that the immigrant community need not worry, yet. Philadelphia will remain a sanctuary city, for now.

Sanctuary cities do not cooperate with federal immigration officials to keep undocumented immigrants, who did not commit a violent crime, in police custody.

Kenney restored Philadelphia's  sanctuary status when he took office.

Asked Thursday about President-elect Donald Trump's promise to strip sanctuary cities of all federal funding, Kenney defended and changed the name of that policy.

“First of all, we’ve changed the name from sanctuary city to the Fourth Amendment city," Kenney said. "We respect and live up to the Fourth Amendment, which means you can’t be held against your will without a warrant from the court signed by a  judge. So yeah, we will continue to be a Fourth Amendment city abiding by the Constitution."

And what if Trump fulfills his threat to pull federal funding from cities like Philadelphia who don't strike the policy?

“Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and we’ll see how it goes and we’ll try to figure something out,” Kenney said.

Kenney said he thinks the Constitution is on his side. “We have no authority to violate the Fourth Amendment. All the immigration officials have to do is get a warrant signed by a federal magistrate and we’ll be happy to turn that person over.”

The policy blocks the police from complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests or from notifying federal officials when a prisoner who is undocumented is being released - except if that person has been convicted of a violent felony and the feds have obtained a warrant.

Adovcates say it improves immigrant-police relations and encourages undocumented people who need help to seek it without threat of deportation. Critics say it's a threat to safety and security.

The Justice Center said in July it would withhold some law-enforcement grant money from cities that do not comply. The issue became a key part of the Senate race between Sen. Pat Toomey and his challenger Katie McGinty. 

Republicans in the statehouse tried to push through a bill that would withhold state funding from sanctuary cities.

Trump has said he would go even farther, pulling all federal funding from sanctuary cities.

Kenney said two days after the election is too soon to predict if Trump will stand by that promise. “I can’t speculate as to what happens – he’s not been sworn in as president and we’ll see what happens after January 20."

On Thursday, Kenney also commented on the anti-Trump rallies and instances of graffiti city-wide. This morning City Hall was tagged: “Not my president.” Elsewhere, swastikas and hateful messaging has been spray-painted on buildings and cars.

“Take a breath,” Kenney said. “Continue to mourn and work your way through this process. It was a very divisive election, a difficult election but again it’s over and we have to move forward as a country.”

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