An undocumented immigrant driving to a Thursday night meeting in Mayfair with Mayor-elect Jim Kenney - to advocate for driver's licenses for immigrants - says she was stopped by police, who impounded her car and had it towed, leaving her and her three children on the street.
The woman, who identified herself as Estela Hernandez, was part of a group organized by the New Sanctuary Movement to speak to Kenney at the meeting.
Hernandez did not say why she had been stopped; police on Saturday night were unable to pull records of the case.
Despite her problem on the way, Hernandez managed to get to Kenney's town-hall meeting at the Mayfair Community Center on St. Vincent Street before it ended and told her story.
She and Kenney also talked after the meeting, which was one of a series the mayor-elect had held around the city since the November election.
Kenney said his transition team was able to recover her car from a Philadelphia Parking Authority lot.
"We made arrangements for her to get her car released and have someone who's a licensed driver pick up the car," Kenney said. "Her car is now insured and registered, and her car is legal and it is out of custody."
Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said Martin O'Rourke, the media consultant for the campaign, was able to contact parking authority staff, even though it was after hours, to arrange for the vehicle's release.
"Not only that," Hitt said, "but he then drove with the woman to an ATM and withdrew several hundred dollars of his own money to pay to register and insure the car."
Hitt said O'Rourke told her that Hernandez's situation "hit close to home."
"When his father immigrated from Ireland, he had no car and hitched rides to work," Hitt said O'Rourke told her. O'Rourke was unavailable for comment Saturday.
"It's sad and it's difficult, because if she had had a driver's license or was permitted to have one, we wouldn't have this problem," Kenney said.
"But she's back, legal as best we can do from a registered standpoint," he said. "She promises not to drive the car, or get someone to drive it who has a license and go from there."
Kenney has said he would support issuing driver's licenses to those without legal residency, but said that the power to do so lies with the state, not the city.
Hitt said the New Sanctuary Movement had contacted Kenney's transition team a week before the meeting, wanting to bring a group to talk about immigration issues.
Kenney had agreed to provide a translator for the group.
About 50 minutes into the meeting, which was attended by hundreds of residents, Hernandez stood and addressed Kenney in Spanish as New Sanctuary community organizer Nicole Scharf Kligerman stood with her.
Hernandez said that as she was coming to the meeting with her three children - 11, 9, and 6, the youngest an asthmatic - "unfortunately, the police stopped me and took my car."
"The police didn't care," Hernandez said, beginning to cry. "I asked them to help us. We don't come here to steal anything. We come here to work."
The woman's car was impounded under the city's "Live Stop" program, which states that "under no circumstances shall the occupants of any vehicle impounded be abandoned on any city street or highway."
Kenney, visibly perturbed, told her that "the Live Stop program was never designed to throw people on the sidewalk."
"This is wrong," he said, "and we will get to the bottom of this."
Police said Saturday that without a specific location, it was not possible to find records pertaining to the Hernandez traffic stop, including why she was stopped in the first place.
New Sanctuary Movement officials did not respond Saturday to requests for comment.
After his final town-hall meeting Friday at Strawberry Mansion High School, Kenney was asked about his meeting Thursday night with Hernandez.
"She was nice enough to give me this little silver cross," said the mayor-elect, showing it to reporters.