Mayor Kenney: Trump cannot bully Philadelphia into changing immigration policy
A federal judge's decision Wednesday rules that the Department of Justice cannot withhold funding from Philadelphia due to the city's welcoming policies for immigrants.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled in favor of Philadelphia in protecting immigrant communities, saying in a 93-page memo that conditions for funding the Department of Justice (DOJ) had imposed on the city were unconstitutional.
"The judge has determined that the attorney general for multiple reasons violated the constitution and unlawfully attached conditions to a criminal justice grant in an attempt to force the city to change its policies in regards to how it treats immigrants," said City Solicitor Marcel Pratt at a press conference at City Hall Wednesday afternoon.
"We are grateful that Judge Baylson appreciates how our welcoming cities policies are important to our city and the people of Philadelphia and our policies actually support and not detract from the city’s efforts to fight crime and make all people feel welcome in our great city," Pratt added.
The city sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice last August after Sessions stated that the DOJ would not provide Philadelphia with funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (or JAG grant), used for law enforcement materials and technology, because of Philadelphia's policy of welcoming undocumented immigrants. Pratt said the amount that has been withheld is equivalent to roughly $1.6 million, the same amount the city received last year from the grant.
Judge Baylson's decision had Mayor Kenney literally dancing for joy, as captured in this tweet from the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, Steve Preston.
— Steve Preston (@StevePrest) June 6, 2018
“It is a ruling that prevents a White House run by a bully from bullying Philadelphia into changing its policies,” said Kenney, adding, “It is most of all a ruling that reminds everyone of why this city and this country exist: to give safe haven and hope to those who flee tyranny, oppression and poverty in other parts of the world, to be a welcoming nation."
Kenney also acknowledged the work of former City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante in implementing the lawsuit during his tenure and convincing the mayor and others to go through with it.
Officials cited the significance of the ruling in a context of the Trump administration's divisive immigration policies and rhetoric.
“It’s fitting that this ruling was decided during the city’s celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, a month where we honor the strength of immigrants and highlight immigrant stories and how they connect all people," said Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs Miriam Enriquez.
"With all the negative rhetoric about immigrants that we repeatedly hear coming down from Washington, D.C., and with the constant fear and uncertainty facing many of our immigrants in these times, this decision should reaffirm to our immigrant communities that we’re glad you’re here, we want you here, and we will always fight to ensure that Philadelphia remains a welcoming city for all," she stated.
An appeal is possible, but Pratt expressed hope that the Department of Justice would accept the federal ruling from Judge Baylson. He also stated that the ruling does not affect the city's course of action with the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, or PARS, which allows the Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency access to real-time information on all police arrests in Philadelphia in a contract up for renewal in August.
“Don’t leave. Because we want you here and now the federal court has made it safer for them to be here," said the mayor of his message to immigrant communities in the city.