In wake of SF shooting, Bailey says Philly should not be a sanctuary city
Two weeks ago, 32-year-old Katherine Steinle was gunned down on an evening stroll along San Francisco’s Embarcadero pier. After federal authorities charged Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate with the murder — a Mexican national who had already been deported five times from the U.S. — the immigration debate exploded once again on local and national stages.
The killing has gained traction in the presidential campaigns. Sanctuary cities like San Francisco that limit their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have come under fire for supposedly laissez-faire policies towards undocumented immigrants, and Philadelphia is no exception.
In a statement issued Friday, Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey said that “Philadelphia will not be a sanctuary city” under her administration.
“By declaring Philadelphia a sanctuary city and not detaining illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a violent crime, we are putting the citizens of Philadelphia at risk,” Bailey said, adding that one in three federal crimes in 2014 were committed by people who are in the U.S. illegally.
More than 200 jurisdictions within the U.S. are so-called sanctuary cities, either by action or by law. In 2014, Mayor Michael Nutter followed the lead of places like New York City by adopting a strict anti-detainer policy.
Bailey said she is proponent of immigration policies and practices that are “clear, fair, and humane.” However, she believes that the San Francisco killing underscores the need to draw a hard line on immigration in Philadelphia.
“By allowing illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes to stay in our city we are proclaiming, ‘Come to Philadelphia, because even if you are in the country illegally and committing crimes there is a place for you here,’” Bailey said.
Despite Bailey's call, ICE already pursues deportation with violent offenders in the Philadelphia area. The cases are rarely as heinous as the Steinle shooting.
Darlin Mendoza, a Honduran national, had been living in the Philadelphia area for the last 11 years with his four children and wife, all of whom are U.S. citizens. Juana Rodriguez, Mendoza’s wife, has a chronic heart condition. Her disability puts the family’s financial livelihood largely on the back on Mendoza’s construction job. Mendoza might have remained under the radar if he hadn’t gotten into a physical fight with another man last year. He was charged with simple assault. After a year waiting in jail before his trial, Mendoza was granted credit for time served. But it was already too late. Because it was violent in nature, the arrest sent a red flag to ICE officials, designating Mendoza an “enforcement priority.” He was deported last month.
During the primary campaign, Kenney told AL DÍA that “...Philadelphia should be the kind of safe haven [undocumented immigrants] need.”
Lauren Hitt, the spokesperson for Kenney's campaign, said that Kenney would "continue the city's non-cooperation policy with ICE in place if he's elected mayor." Hitt emphasized the current policy's benefit to building safer communities:
"The current policy allows ICE officers with judicial warrants to arrest individuals with violent criminal histories, while also building trust between community members and police that allows undocumented Philadelphians to feel safe reporting crimes in their neighborhood and assisting police in their investigations," she said.