The cause of Toomey’s ire is Kenney’s restoration of Philly’s status as a so-called “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. A sanctuary city generally refers to efforts by a local government to not actively prosecute “illegal aliens” residing in the metropolis.
Sanctuary cities have recently become a hot issue in national politics.
Kathryn Steinle was killed while walking along the San Francisco pier by a bullet fired by an undocumented immigrant. It is still unclear how or why Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez fired the gun and he is currently awaiting trial. The fact that Lopez-Sanchez had been deported five times and the San Francisco was, and remains, a sanctuary city inflamed political opinion. Since then, the issue has become a cause celebre among conservatives.
It is in that context that Senator Toomey went after Mayor Kenney.
“The City of Philadelphia has unfortunately decided to defy both federal law and common sense at the expense of keeping Pennsylvanians safe,” said Senator Pat Toomey. “I strongly urge more Pennsylvania Democrats to call on Mayor Kenney to reconsider his decision to shield dangerous and violent criminals from federal authorities just because they are illegal immigrants.”
Toomey points out that Kenney’s action is out of step with a request from President Obama to ex-Mayor Michael Nutter last year to revoke Philly’s sanctuary status.
The Senator also mentioned recent comments from former Philadelphia Mayor (and Pennsylvania Governor) Ed Rendell.
“If I were Mayor, I wouldn’t do it,” Rendell told radio host Rich Zeoli. “I think we should obey the law and remember, it’s the Obama Administration that’s enforcing the deportation laws. So, I think I would’ve not made us a sanctuary city. However, Jim Kenney has been, for the longest time, even going back to when I was Mayor, he’s been an advocate for making Philadelphia a more attractive place for immigrants to come and settle and open up businesses. And I agree with that and think his policy is dead on but I think that it can only happen with legal immigrants.”
“Making us a sanctuary city is pretty much consistent with what Jim Kenney has stood for for the last 20 years,” he continued. “I think, overall, his concept and idea is correct. We do want to attract immigrants because immigrants bring a special vitality and a yearning and a willingness to do hard, difficult work. He brings those to the fore. But I think we should follow the law.”
Since Rendell is Chairman of Katie McGinty’s Senate campaign, Toomey’s team wants her to respond.
“Already, Katie McGinty’s campaign chairman Ed Rendell voiced disapproval at Mayor Kenney’s actions on Tuesday, which makes her decision last year to oppose common sense legislation prohibiting sanctuary cities even more glaring,” Toomey campaign spokesman Ted Kwong wrote. “In the interest of public safety, Katie McGinty should join Senator Toomey and Governor Rendell in opposing Mayor Kenney’s decision on this crucial safety issue for all Pennsylvanians.”
PoliticsPA reached out to the McGinty campaign but they have not responded.
McGinty is running in the Democratic primary against former Congressman Joe Sestak and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
UPDATE: John Fetterman reached out to PoliticsPA in support of Kenney’s decision.
“I want to give my full-throated endorsement of Mayor Kenney’s decision,” the Braddock Mayor said. “Any Democrat that doesn’t agree with this policy is pandering to xenophobia. Sanctuary cities ensure the safety and well-being of everybody.”