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Pennsylvania Aims to Outlaw “Sanctuary Cities” for Undocumented Immigrations

pittsburgh-996347_640Pennsylvania has joined the growing list of states in the U.S. considering the ban of “sanctuary cities,” where local authorities have been refusing to follow immigration requests by the federal government to arrest and turn over known undocumented immigrants, as well as people suspected of being undocumented immigrants. The Pennsylvania Legislature reviewed the bill this week, a month after its introduction by Republican State Senator Richard Alloway.


Detainers Leading to Deportation

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely issue detainers to notify law enforcement agencies of their intent to apprehend undocumented immigrants, with law enforcement officials requested to cooperate with such measures. A detainer, also known as an immigration hold, is a mechanism that lets the ICE and DHS obtain custody of individuals detained by state and local law enforcement agencies. These people are then placed in the federal deportation system.

An ICE detainer is a written order requesting that local authorities detain an individual suspected of being an undocumented immigrant for another 48 hours after his/her supposed release date; this gives immigration officials more time to decide whether that person should be taken into federal custody for deportation.

Immigration Debate Intensifies After Kathryn Steinle Shooting

Talk on strengthening immigration laws intensified after the shooting of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, an incident that drew the ire of presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republicans. Steinle was gunned down by Juan Francisco, an undocumented immigrant with a previous record of being detained by police. Steinle was walking with her father after dinner when the shooting occurred.

Should the bill be ratified into law, it would prohibit municipalities that refuse to obey federal immigration laws from participating in the sale of state surplus property. It would also prevent them from receiving state grants.

National and state legislators have looked into ways to clamp down on sanctuary cities. Senate Democrats had successfully blocked a bill submitted at the federal level that would have stripped sanctuary cities of law enforcement grants.

Pennsylvania Joins North Carolina and Texas

The State of Pennsylvania joins North Carolina, which first addressed the issue of sanctuary cities, as well as Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott has engaged in a heated debate with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, threatening to withhold grant money from her. Local law enforcement offices in these cities point out that having not autonomy to ignore detainers compromises their ability to build trust and relationships in their respective communities with people who would be unlikely to cooperate for fear of being detained and deported.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding this latest immigration issue, don’t hesitate to contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas. Call their offices at 512-215-5225.

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