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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney discusses immigration with Sozi Tulante, a Global Shifts Visiting Fellow at Penn’s Perry World House. Photo: Samantha Madera, City of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney discusses immigration with Sozi Tulante, a Global Shifts Visiting Fellow at Penn’s Perry World House. Photo: Samantha Madera, City of Philadelphia.

Immigrants are welcome in Philly: Mayor Kenney

“Cities around the country have learned to navigate and develop our own solutions, and reinforce the message that you are welcome here, no matter where you…

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, true to form, did not mince words when discussing the city’s immigration policies in the age of Trump during an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

The day-long “Navigating Sanctuary: City Responses to Shifting Immigration Policies” event brought together representatives from 13 cities around the country to discuss local and national immigration policies.

The gathering culminated in public remarks by Kenney, and a discussion between the mayor and Sozi Tulante, who formerly served as Philadelphia’s City Solicitor and currently is a Global Shifts Visiting Fellow at Penn’s Perry World House.

“The fear and uncertainty faced by many in our immigrant communities is real and happens every day,” Kenney told the audience.

“Our residents are afraid because it feels like an open season of constant attack on immigrants, refugees and American families,” he continued. “During these challenging times it’s important for cities to stand together to stand at the forefront of change and reassure our immigrants and refugees that they are welcome here.”.

Kenney pointed to the city’s decision to end the PARS contract and its plan to begin issuing municipal ID cards in 2019, among other actions, as concrete steps his administration has taken to maintain Philadelphia’s open stance toward immigrants and refugees amid increasingly hostile policies and rhetoric at the federal level.

“Cities around the country have learned to navigate and develop our own solutions, and reinforce the message that you are welcome here, no matter where you came from or how you got here,” he said.

“Every city in the world is strengthened by diversity,” he noted. “Our administration works hard to make sure that Philadelphia celebrates its diversity.

Kenney also criticized the federal government’s hostility toward sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia.

“Sanctuary is translated as ‘safe and holy.’ How does a safe and holy city become a bad place to be? I don’t understand how sanctuary became a pejorative,” Kenney said.

“I do understand it, it’s Donald Trump and it’s nonsense,” he added.

During his discussion with Tulante, an activist pressed Kenney on the controversial Berks family detention center, demanding to know why it has yet to be shut down.

The mayor agreed that Berks should not remain in operation, and he further acknowledged that Governor Wolf has the power to shut the center down. He said that he has expressed this to the governor, privately.

“I’m not going to publicly beat up on an elected official on one issue when he’s helping us on so many other issues, like education, like our infrastructure, and he was running in a tough election against a ‘Donald Trump junior,’ and was successful.

“Now we’re moving forward. He’s going into his second term,” Kenney added.

Though the immigration debate is often centered around Latin American and other non-white immigrants today, Kenney doesn’t have to go too far back in his own lineage to draw inspiration for his approach to the issue.

“You can’t be Irish-American and be anti-immigrant,” he said. “It’s not in our DNA.”

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