PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The U.S. Senate’s attempt to pass a Dream Act is stalled and Philadelphia city officials and immigration advocates think part of the reason is an amendment introduced by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.
Toomey’s amendment looks to punish cities with welcoming immigration policies, including at least one city that the senator represents.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” said Philadelphia’s Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy.
He says the amendment, which would withhold federal funds for what Toomey calls “sanctuary cities,” lets Philadelphia down in two ways.
For one thing, Abernathy believes Toomey misunderstands the city’s policy.
“His rhetoric is just flat wrong about what we do,” Abernathy said. “In reality, we actually cooperate with all our federal partners but our policies also don’t allow our officers or our employees to become an extension of immigration enforcement.”
A spokesman for Toomey says, “Philadelphia’s sanctuary city policy is far more expansive than most other municipalities.”
“Having a policy in place which makes it easier for violent illegal immigrants to be shielded from federal immigration authorities is not in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians — which is who Senator Toomey represents,” Steve Kelly said in an email.
Tyler Moran, of the DC Immigration Hub, defends policies, like Philadelphia’s, that rejects the notion that they endanger citizens.
“He’s using very charged language,” says Moran. “But what he’s doing is requiring local law enforcement to use their local resources to work with ICE to detain people and, unlike under the Obama administration, where there was a set of priorities and people with felonies were a priority and Dreamers were not a priority, there’s no prioritization anymore. And this administration has even said they’re not going to go after Dreamers but if they apprehend Dreamers, they’re going to be deported. So they’re basically trying to get a force multiplier out of local law enforcement and Philadelphia has said no to that.”
Moran spoke in a conference call with other immigrant activists, who said their bigger concern was the delay in voting on DACA.
The Senate has established an elaborate procedure to hold space for a finished DACA bill and GOP leaders wanted to begin the process by offering Toomey’s amendment.
Democrats objected, saying the bill has nothing to do with DACA or border security and, so as of this afternoon no voting had started.
The advocates blame the amendment. Kelly blamed Democratic leadership.
Nearly 6,000 Pennsylvania residents, or so-called “Dreamers,” are still awaiting a replacement for the DACA measure that expires March 5.