Getting at the Heart of Philadelphia’s “Sanctuary City” Status

The Philadelphia immigration attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are pleased to report on a November 2017 decision in the U.S. District court which supports Philadelphia’s current Sanctuary City status. The case involved the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which fought to get the city to cooperate more closely with federal officials regarding what information the city will provide about potentially undocumented Philadelphia residents. In that case, the DOJ, under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claimed that because the city is not providing federal officials easy access to people in Philadelphia jails, the city should no longer qualify for the $1.6 million it receives under the Edward Byrne Memorial Assistance program.

Detainment Process

The conditions the DOJ sought to impose included a requirement that the City provide the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency two days’ notice before a suspected undocumented immigrant is released from local custody. Under current City policy, officials will only turn an individual who is about to be released from custody over to ICE if the agency presents an arrest warrant signed by a judge or if the person has been convicted of a serious crime. Philadelphia officials will not turn over individuals to ICE based on administrative procedure or request, as the DOJ attempted to require. Since 2015, city officials have turned over only four individuals to ICE after receiving the proper warrant or required information.

The $1.6 million which was at stake is earmarked to be used toward equipping all Philadelphia police officers with Narcan, an overdose-reversing drug used to fight the current opioid epidemic plaguing Philadelphia and the rest of the country.

In court, lawyers for the city argued that the DOJ and the Attorney General are reading something into the law that is not there. In Chicago, a judge struck down similar requirements attached to the grants and stated that implementing those extra requirements related to undocumented or potentially undocumented individuals exceeds the DOJ’s authority. The Judge in the Philadelphia case, a Regan appointee, issued a temporary restraining order in favor of Philadelphia finding that the city is likely to be successful on the merits of the case as it moves forward.

The city’s police chief is in favor of the city’s current policies and has argued in the past that greater cooperation and communication between the city’s police force and ICE could have a chilling effect on people reporting crime in the city.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Residents Understand Philadelphia’s Sanctuary City Policies

The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. advise immigrants in Philadelphia on who have had interactions with local law enforcement. We serve clients throughout the Philadelphia area. Contact us online or call 215-925-4435 to discuss your options today.