Byko: How Pa. targets Kenney's lawless Sanctuary City

In January, Mayor Kenney re-established Philadelphia as a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants except for those convicted of violent felonies.

HOUSE BILL 1885 is Jim Kenney's living nightmare.

Sponsored by Northeast Rep. Martina White, the bill would allow the city to be sued for personal injury or property damage caused by someone here illegally. It could pass as early as next week and go to the Senate, which has a similar bill on the griddle.

The city should be held responsible, White believes, because Philadelphia is a Sanctuary City that violates U.S. law by prohibiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

HB 1885 also allows the state to withhold certain funds if the city violates the law.

In a controlled panic, resorting to familiar distractions, Kenney issued a statement accusing White of dancing with the devil - trying to win Pennsylvania for Donald Trump, and also making it harder for law enforcement.

Kenney questioned White's "understanding of the law, government, and policing."

This reminds me of the quote attributed to Socrates: "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser."

Lecturing on the law is hilarious coming from Kenney. He is actively breaking federal law - the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which mandates cooperation with the feds. His policy shields illegal immigrants already convicted of felonies.

Kenney claims White's bill will make it "more difficult to solve and prevent crimes."

As to "solve," the names of undocumented victims and witnesses in Philly have long been shielded from ICE, and anyone can provide anonymous tips.

The bill actually will help prevent crime by pressuring the city to turn convicted felons over to the feds.

The most preposterous claim made by Kenney and his fellow wishful thinkers is that having more undocumented people here makes the city safer. Protecting convicted foreign felons from deportation after serving their time makes the city even safer, I guess.

Were we safer having Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa here? Deported in 2009, the undocumented Honduran returned to Philadelphia and in 2015 was held on charges of domestic aggravated assault. Ignoring an ICE detainer request, Philadelphia police released him. After he was turned loose, he was arrested this July and charged with raping a child.

Sanctuary Cities are illegal, and even - drum roll - President Obama has said so.

In his 2010 immigration speech, Obama disagreed with those who say we should "ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws."

The president said no, but Kenney operates outside the law, not to mention sanity, and puts innocent citizens at risk. To him the law is an hors d'oeuvres plate, take what you like and ignore the rest.

White attended Kenney's inauguration, and "I couldn't believe one minute he's being sworn in to protect our constitution and the law and the next minute he declared Philadelphia as a Sanctuary City," she told me.

As I have noted in the past, legal immigrants are less likely to commit crime than the native born and that's true for even those here illegally. But some do commit crimes that would not have happened if immigration laws were enforced.

They are enforced in Montgomery County.

That was bad news for Oscar Herrera, 29, an illegal immigrant who was sentenced last week to 24 to 70 years for raping a 6-year-old Hatfield girl who had been sleeping in her own bed. A Mexican national, when arrested he had a bench warrant for failure to appear to answer a DUI charge in Montgomery County, prosecutor Stewart Ryan told me.

Here's where this connects with White's bill. If it becomes law, had the crime been committed in Philadelphia, the victim's family could sue the city. As a taxpayer, it would cost me, but as a law-abiding citizen in an outlaw city I'd be happy if it ends the Sanctuary nonsense.

So might withholding state funds for noncompliance. Predictably, Kenney pretzeled the issue into being about "our most vulnerable children." Always "the children." The money actually would be withheld from a variety of recipients, but waving a diaper worked with the soda tax so he's giving it another shot.

"It doesn't withhold a penny from Philadelphia" if Kenney follows the law, White told me. "It's going to be up to him if he wants to side with Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians, and the federal government, or with illegal immigrants who commit crimes against citizens."

City Councilman David Oh on Thursday introduced a resolution attacking HB 1885. This is not unexpected, because Council seems comfortable with Philly's Sanctuary City status.

It's only a matter of time before some already-convicted felon released by the city will rape or beat or murder someone, and the victim's blood will be on Kenney's hands. Council's, too.

If HB 1885 passes, Philadelphia will face a big price for our leaders' self-righteous failure to obey U.S. law.

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky