COUNT MAYOR Kenney among those calling out President Trump for making false claims. In a gloves-off statement following Trump's visit to Philadelphia, Kenney blasted the president for claiming that the murder rate has been "terribly increasing" when, in fact, the homicide rate has remained fairly steady in the past few years - and has declined dramatically since the '90s.
Kenney called Trump's "false statements an insult to the men and women of the Philadelphia police force - the very same men and women who are working long hours today to ensure his safety . . . "
Further, he added "we are handicapped by Republican . . . obsession with turning our police officers into ICE agents . . . "
So-called "sanctuary cities" were among the many targets Trump tried to hit in his first few days in office: On Wednesday, he signed an executive order stopping federal funds from going to cities such as Philadelphia that have vowed, to varying degrees, to protect residents who are undocumented immigrants from falling into the hands of federal immigration officers who want to deport them.
There's a lot of confusion over this policy, in effect in 39 cities and 364 counties in the United States.
According to a Kenney representative: "Our policy states that city authorities will not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for undocumented citizens who are arrested and would have otherwise been released from custody, unless the individual has committed a first- or second-degree felony involving violence. If ICE obtains a judicial warrant, however, we will comply."
In other words, if someone gets picked up for a minor charge, that person's fingerprints get shared with law enforcement officials; if ICE identifies that person as undocumented and wants the city to hold the person for extra time so it can start deportation proceedings, the city won't comply. ICE can get a judicial warrant ordering the city to hold the suspect for questioning by federal agents, but getting a warrant from a judge sets a higher bar of evidence for immigrations agents.
Kenney thinks having local police act as an arm of ICE makes it harder for police to develop a relationship with immigrant communities who are already reluctant to cooperate in criminal probes - even ones where they are the victims.
Trump's order threatens the $340 million the city gets each year from the federal government for such diverse programs as housing and community development, pre-kindergarten, programs for the homeless and scientific help for police investigators.
Our advice: Stay calm, and carry on. Trump cannot, by executive fiat, stop the flow of federal funds to cities and states. Only Congress has that power, through the annual budget process.
There also is a Supreme Court ruling that says that, in general, the federal government can't use denial of federal aid to local governments as punishment for their failing to follow federal mandates, especially if the money goes to programs not involved in the dispute.
Trump might be oblivious to these restrictions, but Congress is aware. And these politicians might also be wary of being seen as cutting off aid to children, the homeless and the police over a dispute with ICE.
Finally, the U.S. Constitution calls for separation of powers, individual rights (even for immigrants) and frowns upon federal interference in matters that are seen as intruding on states' rights, such as local law enforcement.
We agree with Kenney's response to the Trump order. As the mayor put it: "This is not a dictatorship. This is a democracy."