In his first major act as Philadelphia’s new mayor, Jim Kenney signed an executive order that restored the municipality’s status as a “sanctuary city.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that yesterday (January 4)—the same day that Kenney was inaugurated—he signed an order that reversed previous mayor Michael Nutter’s recent elimination of sanctuary city status. This label describes municipalities where local law enforcement does not collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport undocumented immigrants.
Per the Inquirer, Kenney described both the order and his communication with Homeland Security leadership regarding the changed status:
“The only way that people buy into [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is when they…have input into the process,” Kenney—who had promised to rescind his predecessor’s eleventh-hour order on his first day in office—said at a signing ceremony where immigrant-rights activists cheered.
Kenney said he had spoken with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is promoting “Priority Enforcement,” a replacement for “Secure Communities,” an ICE program that has been rejected by immigrant groups and dozens of municipalities, including Philadelphia, as overly aggressive.
Kenney also said that Johnson will send ICE officials to Philadelphia, who will try to explain to local leaders and stakeholders why the Priority Enforcement Program is a better than Secure Communities. The current executive order is in line with the city’s status between April 2014 and December 2015, when police were prevented from telling ICE about undocumented prisoners’ release unless an inmate was convicted of a violent felony and the agency could produce an arrest warrant.
Kenney’s executive order comes amid much public turmoil over sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants, including a new round of federal raids targeting more than 100 recently-arrived Central-American immigrants throughout the South.