Amid post-election turmoil, Democratic leaders affirm Philly's status as a Fourth Amendment city
Under normal circumstances, police need some kind of warrant to detain or hold a person. Yet like so much else, the right to freedom of movement has been only loosely defended in the case of undocumented immigrants, who President-Elect Donald Trump refers to as “illegal” and worse, and who on numerous occasions he has threatened to deport en masse for the simple act of existing within U.S. borders.
Since Election Day, immigration rights advocates and government officials alike have struggled to reconcile the President-Elect’s campaign promises with the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recognized that he could have and should have done more to campaign for Secretary Clinton, who lost the state.
“I am, I guess, the leader of the [Democratic] party in Pennsylvania, and so I have to take responsibility for not doing as well as we should have done,” Wolf said at a briefing in Harrisburg last week.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney mirrored the mayors of Los Angeles, New York and Seattle in declaring that the city would continue to hold police accountable to the Fourth Amendment, which prevents holding a person without a warrant from a judge.
Banning so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” so designated because the police will not honor Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s request for a hold on non-criminal aliens, has been one of the key points in Donald Trump’s immigration platform. Trump has even threatened to withhold federal funding from cities which do not comply. This would be disastrous for Philadelphia, which Billy Penn reported is scheduled to receive $28 million in federal aid during the coming fiscal year.
Yet Kenney justified his stance in moral and constitutional terms. “We have no authority to violate the Fourth Amendment [by helping ICE detain non-criminal immigrants without a warrant.]”
“All the immigration officials have to do is get a warrant signed by a federal magistrate and we’ll be happy to turn that person over,” he said.
The Sanctuary City policy was overturned by Mayor Nutter only weeks before the end of his time in office, in what many perceived as a political capitulation. Kenney reinstated it upon taking office in 2015, against the wishes of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson but to wide acclaim from local immigration and human rights groups.
Since taking office, Trump has backtracked somewhat on his call to deport all undocumented immigrants, saying he will prioritize deporting 3 million criminals. In rhetoric, this call to action is not so different from the status quo under the Obama administration, which has deported more undocumented immigrants than George W. Bush.
The signs of resistance are already emerging in Philadelphia, however, where a growing community of undocumented Mexican workers and business owners from Puebla has been established in South Philly. The city also receives refugees from across the world, especially the Middle East. Nearby farmland in Southern New Jersey and Kennett Square is maintained by mostly immigrant workers. And North Philly is home to Latinos from many different countries in the region.
Today Juntos held a press conference for a family taking sanctuary at a church on Arch St and Broad St. Our report will be with you soon.