Philadelphia Stands to Lose Millions if City Continues to Be a So-Called Sanctuary for Undocumented Immigrants

The Department of Justice is once again threatening to cut off funding for Philadelphia if the city maintains its sanctuary status.

In a letter issued Thursday, the DOJ warned the city it has "laws, policies or practices" that violate a federal statute requiring local governments to comply with federal immigration officials in deporting suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails.

Philadelphia has until Oct. 27 to prove the city is in compliance.


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A similar letter was sent to seven municipalities, including Chicago, New York and New Orleans.

Mayor Jim Kenney and City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante, who filed a lawsuit in August against the DOJ, said Thursday afternoon that they still disagree with the federal government's description of Philadelphia immigration policies.

"We'll wait to see what a judge tells us to do and not be intimidated or coerced by the federal government," Kenney said, adding that he is "not surprised, but completely disappointed" that the DOJ continues to hound the city.

Offending cities and states stand to lose money from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (or JAG grant), which provided Philadelphia with $1.6 million in 2016 to spend on police overtime, training, equipment, courtroom technology and other aspects of the criminal justice system.

Philadelphia's lawsuit was filed against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over withholding grant funds by imposing new and “unprecedented” requirements to show compliance.

“As you know, the city welcomed immigrants long before I was ever mayor,” Kenney said at the time. “Immigrants are key to the success of Philadelphia.”

On Wednesday, an undocumented immigrant who had been hiding in a Philadelphia church basement went home for the first time in 11 months. Fearing deportation and separation from his family, Javier Flores Garcia went into hiding shortly after the election of President Donald Trump.

He was released on the same that Trump visited Pennsylvania to tout his tax plan.

In April, a presidential executive order that would have cut off funds to sanctuary cities was stymied by a judge's order. Chicago won a ruling over the department last month over an earlier threat to withhold public safety funding.

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