Philadelphia skyline. Photo: Thinkstock photos.
Philadelphia skyline. Photo: Thinkstock photos.

Philly wins major court ruling on immigration


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Philadelphia’s standing as a sanctuary city won a major victory on Friday.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision handed down last summer, on a lawsuit that Philadelphia filed in 2017, which affirmed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot withhold funding to the city over its refusal to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ruling is a blow to the DOJ which, under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stipulated that in order for Philadelphia to receive funds through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, the city would have to allow ICE access to its prisons, as well as notify ICE of persons released from prison, upon request.

The DOJ also sought to ensure that Philadelphia complied with a statute that would prevent the city from withholding information regarding a person’s citizenship or immigration status.

“The conditions imposed by the DOJ were an unconscionable attempt to bully the City and its residents into changing our policies,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a press release.

“On the very day the President declared a bogus national emergency to build a useless wall, I say to our immigrant community: we are glad you call Philadelphia home, and we will continue to fight for you,” he added.

In fiscal year 2017, the criminal justice grant funding would have totaled $1.598 million, according to the initial court decision, money the city said would have been dedicated to supplying police officers with Narcan to combat opioid overdoses.

The decision found that statements put forth by both President Trump and then-Attorney General Sessions, that immigrants commit more crimes than U.S.-born citizens, were false in the context of Philadelphia.

Friday’s Court of Appeals ruling held that Sessions “unlawfully imposed” the set of immigration-related conditions on the city.

“The Third Circuit’s decision marks a significant moment for all Philadelphians, including our immigrant communities. The hate-filled rhetoric about immigrants that has become a drumbeat from the Trump Administration sows fear and uncertainty in our communities and further divides our country,” said Office of Immigrant Affairs Director Miriam Enriquez in a statement.  

“This decision reaffirms to our immigrant communities that we will always fight to ensure that Philadelphia welcomes all, regardless of where you came from or when you got here.”  

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