State Rep. Martina White (R., Phila.) on Monday sent a response to a courteous letter from City Council President Darrell Clarke on Feb. 6. His letter asked her to not reintroduce legislation making "sanctuary cities" liable for personal and property damage caused by undocumented people living in the city. White's district is in the Northeast.
White's response, also courteous, was — no.
Before digging into White's response, let me point to some stunning mistakes made by Clarke.
He wrote that there is no precedent "for municipalities being held financially accountable for damages incurred as a result of criminal acts committed by its citizens."
Full stop. Did he say citizens?
Yes, he did, but the bill is directed at people here illegally. They are not citizens -- not of the U.S., anyway. The city will not be held liable for damage done by citizens.
Perhaps Clarke made a slip of the tongue, or the pen?
A couple of lines later, Clarke said he supports sanctuary cities "because every American — regardless of immigration or documented status — deserves due process."
President Clarke just offered an alternative fact.
Those who are here without documents are not Americans. If they are from Canada or Mexico (we have undocumented people here from both those neighbors), you can call them North Americans, but not Americans. That means citizens of the U.S.
This point, I think, is part of the problem. People such as Clarke and Mayor Kenney and the other enablers who welcome — even invite — the undocumented to come here seem to think they are citizens once they get here. They think of them as people who have a right to be here.
They do not have that right. They are here illegally, they have broken our laws and once here they break more laws if they take jobs and use false documents to get those jobs.
In his letter, Clarke said White's bill would make immigrants (he means illegal immigrants) fearful of cooperating with police. In fact, before Philly went sanctuary, Mayor Michael Nutter had agreed to a compromise by which the names of accused criminals would be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the names of victims and witnesses would be withheld. The idea of illegal immigrants being fearful of police had been corrected without sanctuary status.
In her response to Clarke's letter, White says Kenney's sanctuary city executive order "impacts the safety of our citizens" (that would be actual citizens) "and violates federal law."
She quotes from the U.S. Code, Title 8, Chapter 12: a "local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."
That is governmentese for you can't interfere with the law, which sanctuary cities do.
"My bill will help bring accountability to our officials who disregard the law," White says.
She writes "there is no debate that illegal aliens have harmed Americans," and includes a list of five undocumented criminals who were released onto the streets of Philadelphia.
If White's bill was to become law, Clarke writes, city taxpayers would be vulnerable.
The remedy is easy — follow the law and cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in ridding our city of convicted foreign felons. That is mainly what ICE wants to do, but it seems likely there will be less tolerance now for illegal immigrants with even minor infractions. Sanctuary cities can thank themselves for that, and for handing Donald Trump a campaign issue.
As I've reported before, a majority of Americans oppose sanctuary cities, but also don't want mass deportations. That's why I proposed a plan to resolve the issue. http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/stu_bykofsky/Byko-A-five-point-plan-to-solve-illegal-immigration--.html
In addition to White's bill, Harrisburg is considering legislation to cut funding to sanctuary cities. Republicans control both houses and passage is likely. Clarke has expressed concern about possible loss of aid, fearing great financial harm to the city.
President Trump also has said he will slash funds going to sanctuary cities.
So far, Kenney has stubbornly said he won't back down from his dangerous and illegal sanctuary city ideas.
If he doesn't change course and the money weapon is turned on the city, Kenney won't pay the penalty for his hubris.