[OP-ED]: Why I Support Philadelphia’s Sanctuary City Status
When my father came to this country from Cuba, he risked his life and the lives of his family just for a taste of the freedom we have to offer.
I think of the courage it took for him to make that journey (some relatives have told me he snuck out of Cuba with false papers dressed as a priest!) when I think about Philadelphia’s status as a Sanctuary City.
Since that term means different things to different people, let me tell you what it means to me. It means we don’t break up families and deport folks who have been arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses. It means we don’t force our local law enforcement officers, who have a hard enough job as it is, and need to build trust with diverse communities, to become deputy immigration officers. And it means we don’t drive a deeper wedge between the immigrant community and the law enforcement community.
Here’s what it doesn’t mean: It does NOT mean we release dangerous, undocumented individuals with valid federal warrants and detainers.
I think we need to appreciate that, in many cases, the folks who came here escaped persecution and oppression in their home country to find a better life for themselves and for their families. They want to work hard, they want to play by the rules, and they want to build a community based on trust.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in the immigrant communities in Philadelphia. I’ve worked side by side with them. I’ve gone to churches, broken bread, and felt their sense of pride. I was an early and fervent supporter of Philadelphia’s Sanctuary City status under the Nutter Administration, and I was instrumental in the creation of the Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs.
As a blanket policy, I stand with Mayor Kenney and his commitment to making Philadelphia a safe city for immigrants. And I strenuously object to the controversial SB 10 in Harrisburg, which would attempt to defund the entire city of Philadelphia over a policy disagreement. It’s an authoritarian over-reaction to a non-existent problem more reminiscent of the oppressive countries that many new Americans have fled. Those are not American values.
Now more than ever it is vital that we work together to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens. I will continue to fight to ensure our city maintains is a sanctuary for ALL people, that it accepts immigrants and refugees from all backgrounds and faiths, and that it becomes a hub for anyone who seeks to realize the American dream.
Rich Negrin is the child of Cuban immigrants, was a former city prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, and was previously the city’s managing director.