Byko: Kenney's Sanctuary City might cost Philly big fed bucks

Mayor Kenney restored Philadelphia's sanctuary status when he took office and defended the policy last week.

In statements over the past few days, Mayor Kenney has shown a head-shaking "diversity" of opinion when it comes to law-breakers.

If you draw swastikas, damage public buildings, threaten gays, minorities, black Penn freshmen or even assault passersby, he says the cops are gonna come for you. Like in "Bad Boys."

However, if you are a foreign-born felon who is here illegally, Kenney is going to protect you from the feds because of his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, which is a new, and invalid, argument to me.

The Fourth Amendment text: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The first half has to do with illegal searches, which is not usually what lands the "undocumented" in jail.

The second half deals with warrants, clearly search warrants, but does mention persons to be seized.

A self-anointed Constitutional scholar, Kenney is saying when ICE asks the city to turn over undocumented persons already convicted of a felony, that violates the Fourth Amendment.

Despite the misguided do-gooderism, a strong majority of Americans put the law above the "social justice" selected by politicians. The law trumps personal ideology.

A 2015 Rasmussen Report poll revealed 62 percent of likely voters think the U.S. Justice Department should take legal action against Sanctuary Cities, with 58 percent wanting federal funding cut off. Think there were many Hillary voters in that group?

The press has a bad habit of describing Kenney's illegal and dangerous executive order prohibiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs enforcement as just shielding "nonviolent criminals." That seems like an attempt to downplay that many are actually felons. Kenney's order is carefully crafted to protect them for reasons that are inexplicable to me.

Here's what it says: ICE will be notified only if the suspect has a conviction, but not just a conviction, it must be a felony. But not just a felony, it must be a first- or second-degree felony. But not just a first- or second-degree felony, it must also involve violence.

The order protects non-violent drunken drivers, identity thieves, burglars, counterfeiters and drug dealers. The kind of person every neighborhood treasures. Have fun, foreign felons! Philly is "inclusive" of criminals.

The whole warrant thing is a red herring. An ICE spokesman tells me it requires no warrant to take into custody anyone here illegally, in the same way a beat cop requires no warrant to arrest someone caught stealing a car.

Kenney's position – and that of other Sanctuary Cities – has been criticized by President Obama. The Department of Justice has threatened action, but those threats are like a permissive parent threatening to ground a teenager for smoking weed when the parent tokes. It is not credible.

Will it be under a Trump administration? Did Pennsylvania go Republican?

In an interview with the Inquirer, former Mayor Wilson Goode thinks the flow of federal money to the cities will slow, no matter what, as when he was mayor and Ronald Reagan was president. The result was "absolutely devastating," Goode said.

Trump may feel like cutting aid to cities anyway, but given his feelings about illegal immigration, him targeting Sanctuary Cities is certain. And welcome by those who believe in the rule of law rather than the whim of social engineers.

The city's general fund gets $30 million in federal aid but tens of millions more flow to the city through grants directed at human services, police, housing and other agencies.

Before the election, Kenney, who has his own late-night, Twitter impulse problem, called Trump a nincompoop and a creep. I'm rubber, you're glue, as we used to say.

Now, sensing the financial strangulation a new federal government might bring, Kenney takes a big bite of crow and acknowledges, "He is our President. . . we're gonna have to make it work."

It is not gonna work if Kenney insists on his sanctimonious Sanctuary City policy that protects felons. ICE says it has little interest in undocumented people leading quiet and otherwise lawful lives.

Crunch time is long overdue, but coming.

Does he want a cheesesteak tax to replace lost federal funds? A tax on Pilates?

Kenney will have to decide what's more important to him – the welfare of the citizens of this city or his coddling of foreign felons who have no business being here.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky