Americans living under the Trump administration need to be holding serious conversations about some of the most controversial measures coming out of the White House, and one of the most urgent conversations relates to the thorny issue of immigrants residing in so-called sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia.

Members of the Philadelphia City Council are having a thorough conversation about the draconian immigration policies being pushed around as executive orders issued by United States President Donald Trump. While Philadelphia embraces its sanctuary city status, there are serious concerns about the potential economic and political fallout that may arise from this stance.

What the Philadelphia Council members have been discussing recently is a matter of dollars and sense. Mayor Jim Kenney is clearly in favor of the sanctuary city status and is willing to be as defiant as legally possible in relation to Trump’s anti-immigrant measures. Darrell Clarke, the City Council President, agrees with the Mayor to a lesser extent. Clarke is concerned about fiscal responsibility as it relates to threats made by Trump about cutting off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

It remains to be seen whether Trump can actually cut off funding to sanctuary cities without running afoul of federal responsibilities in a democratic republic. There are even doubts as to the President’s campaign promise to deport up to 11 million undocumented immigrants; this is something that analysts doubt could be pulled off in a sustainable manner. Still, Philadelphia is doing the right thing by discussing the worst-case scenarios.

What Could Go Wrong

In essence, sanctuary cities are municipalities that do not cooperate with federal agents with regard to deportation. This could mean withholding intelligence and ordering local police departments to deny assistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents looking for people to detain and deport.

President Trump has used pretty strong rhetoric against sanctuary cities; legal analysts worry that he may order the Justice Department to come up with obscure legal strategies to block federal funding to cities such as Philadelphia.

Just like bookkeeping services for small business owners present their clients with reports about worst-case scenarios that could bankrupt their companies, Council President Clarke has warned that Philadelphia currently gets about $500 million each year in federal funding. Additionally, there is also the fact that Pennsylvania’s state budget is expected to report a $3 billion deficit for 2017.

According to the Philadelphia Voice, Clarke is considered to be one of the most powerful Democrats in the city, which suggests that he may already have a backup plan in case the Trump threat becomes a reality. Nonetheless, there are valid concerns that the White House may be attempting to exert a divide and conquer campaign in Pennsylvania. This is already evident in House Bill 1558, which aims to push economic and legal sanctions against sanctuary cities in the Keystone State.

Pushing Back Against Threats

It is very fitting for Philadelphia to accept its status as a sanctuary city; after all, this is the City of Brotherly Love, a historical metropolis that has embraced Constitutional freedoms since the founding of the United States.

The sanctuary city situation in Philadelphia may come down to politics after all, and this is where the City Council may shine. Although Republican members voted against the ordinances that make Philly a sanctuary city, they are widely believed to have done so out of procedure, meaning that they knew that the Democrats are the Council majority anyway. These two Republicans are not expected to oppose Mayor Kenney.

In the end, Philadelphia may not only be able to hold on to its status as a sanctuary city but may also teach other American municipalities a lesson in how politics should be played. The fact that the Republicans in the Council are going along with the status quo suggests that they are submitting to the political reality. As long as Philadelphia remains a Democratic bastion, this sanctuary city will prevail.


By:  Jennifer Livingston