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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 13, 2017 10:44 AM
From: Senator Guy Reschenthaler
To: All Senate members
Subject: Municipal Sanctuary and Federal Enforcement (SAFE) Act
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation that will address the issue of sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth. This bill is designed to prevent municipalities and counties from designating themselves as “sanctuary cities” in order to thwart federal efforts to combat illegal immigration. This was previously introduced by Senator Alloway last session as Senate Bill 997.

Last year, so-called “sanctuary cities” came into the national spotlight after the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant. This man would have been deported prior to committing this crime if San Francisco had honored the immigration detainer.

Though there is no fixed definition for a “sanctuary city,” the common theme among them is that mayors and other elected officials have prevented their police from honoring an immigration detainer by failing to notify agents of the Department of Homeland Security of the pending release of an individual who has a detainer issued. This misguided attempt at preserving “human rights” ultimately threatens the safety of citizens legally residing in their communities.

Several municipalities in Pennsylvania have, unfortunately, taken steps to oppose federal law and will no longer honor an immigration detainer. I plan to introduce legislation that will address this problem.

The bill will include the following provisions:
  • The governing body of any municipality or county may not adopt a rule, order, ordinance or policy under which it prohibits the enforcement of the laws of the Commonwealth or federal laws pertaining to immigrants or immigrations, including the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C., Section 1101 and et. Seq.).
  • No governing body of a municipality or county, along with any of the named individuals, shall be required to take an action that could result in exposure to potential liability.
  • Any law enforcement agency, municipality, or county that refuses to enforce a constitutional order shall not be eligible for any state grants for law enforcement, including the purchase of equipment or vehicles for law enforcement, or eligible to participate in the sale of state surplus property.
  • The legislation will provide a good-faith exception for a law enforcement agency, municipality, county, or individuals that made an attempt to coordinate with the federal agency, but was unable to coordinate efforts with said agency to transfer the custody of the suspect in question.
  • The bill will add a definition to Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) – “municipality of refuge.” This is a municipality that permits the release of an individual in the custody of the local law enforcement agency even though there is a detainer request by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit.
  • Further, this bill will grant legal standing to any person injured to sue a municipality or county that released an individual with a detainer and did not make a good faith effort to contact the proper immigration authorities and arrange for a transfer of custody.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation. Please contact my office with any questions at 717-787-5839.

Introduced as SB10