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Pa. Senate moves to block state grants to Philly, other 'sanctuary cities'

HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would withhold state money from so-called sanctuary cities and other municipalities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The 37-12 vote sends the legislation to the House, where it will be reviewed, said House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin, who said the chamber's priority is the state budget.

The Senate bill says a law enforcement agency or municipality that refuses to enforce an immigration order would not be eligible for state grants unless it has attempted to turn over a suspect wanted by immigration authorities but is unable to do so within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.

A Senate fiscal analysis says the proposal could mean the loss of up to $1.3 billion to places known to be sanctuary municipalities.

That tally includes $638 million for Philadelphia and $9 million for Pittsburgh, which the analysis says has not declared itself a sanctuary city but has adopted policies and practices consistent with sanctuary status.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) said the proposal is about upholding the rule of law.

"There has been a troubling trend of late across our great nation, sanctuary cities, places which harbor criminal illegal aliens and refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to protect our citizens," Scarnati said.

In a statement, Mayor Kenney called the Senate proposal "an extreme reaction to a policy that hundreds of localities, including 19 in Pennsylvania, have been forced to adopt as a result of our broken national immigration system."

Gov. Wolf's office is monitoring the progress of the bill, said spokesman J.J. Abbott. "We have concerns about this bill, including whether states may legally require that municipalities assist with the enforcement of federal law, as the federal government must enforce its own immigration policy," Abbott said.