Anti-sanctuary campus, city bills up for vote in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Harvey Barrison | Flickr

In a Pennsylvania Senate committee meeting Monday, members passed a bill to withhold funding from municipalities and counties that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The bill passed on a party-line vote, with full support from Republicans and full opposition from Democrats and is slated for consideration by the full Pennsylvania Senate today. If it moves on to the House of Representatives and is passed, municipalities would be required to contact federal immigration authorities on undocumented immigrants in their custody.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican from Jefferson Hills, proposed the bill — referred to as the Municipal Sanctuary and Federal Enforcement Act — to prevent counties and municipalities from designating themselves “sanctuary cities.” In a memorandum to the state senate, he also said that this will effectively fight illegal immigration.

Municipalities and cities that do not enforce federal immigration orders will be ineligible for state grants and funding. According to analysis done by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday, this action could result in up to $1.3 billion being withheld from designated “sanctuary cities.”

Mayor Bill Peduto has not officially declared Pittsburgh a sanctuary, though he has committed the city to increased immigration and refugee acceptance measures through his “Welcoming Pittsburgh” program.

Also going through the state legislature right now is an anti-sanctuary campus bill — called HB14 — is currently in the State Government committee of the House. Rep. Jerry Knowles, a Republican representing three counties in the state, sponsored the bill in an effort to limit funding to campuses that do not intend to work with federal immigration officials.

“I believe that our state institutions of higher education have a compelling interest to ensure the safety and security of the students, faculty and employees on their campuses,” he said in the bill’s memo. “Turning a blind eye to illegal conduct for the sake of making some kind of political statement on this nation’s immigration policy endangers the lives of those that the institution should be protecting.”

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