Philadelphia gets extensive support in federal government's appeal of its sanctuary city case

Dozens of organizations and local governments say they're on the city's side.

Pat Loeb
October 12, 2018 - 4:11 pm
Philadelphia City Hall

Courtesy of Paul Gluck


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A federal judge handed Philadelphia a victory in June, upholding its "sanctuary city" immigration policy, but that was not the last word on the issue. The Justice Department appealed the ruling in July. The city filed its response last week and, on Friday, received support from dozens of cities, states, legal and social service organizations.

The support came in 12 "friend of the court" or Amicus briefs filed in the case. The city had filed suit when the Justice Department tried to take back a law enforcement grant known as JAG (Judicial Assistance Grant), because the city will not hold prisoners beyond their release date for immigration authorities without a judicial warrant. 

Judge Michael Baylson ruled the city's stance is reasonable, rational and equitable. In its appeal to the Third Circuit, Justice Department lawyers call the ruling arbitrary and capricious and argue immigration authorities shouldn't need a federal warrant if they have probable cause to request a prisoner be held. 

Cities joining Philadelphia's side in the case write that the department's attempt to turn the JAG into a policy cudgel is at odds with its purpose.

"The Attorney General's attempt to transform the JAG program into a policy cudgel is flatly inconsistent with the program’s overarching purpose. Congress enacted the JAG statute to 'give State and local governments more flexibility to spend [federal] money for programs that work for them rather than to impose a "one size fits all" solution.'”

A brief from local social service agencies says they've seen first-hand the benefits of the city's immigration policy.

"Amici have seen first-hand the benefits of the city’s welcoming policies designed to embrace its immigrant communities, including nondisclosure policies that prevent city employees from unnecessarily collecting and revealing its residents’ immigration information. Those city policies have boosted Amici’s efforts to serve effectively the region’s immigrant communities by allowing Amici to assure their constituents and clients that contact with the city and its employees will not ineluctably result in the disclosure of immigration information to federal officials. Without that assurance, Amici are concerned that mixed-status and undocumented families and individuals will recede into the shadows, making it difficult — if not impossible — for Amici to provide services vital to the safety, health, and welfare of the entire community."