Philadelphia is the home of the Liberty Bell, and the symbolism of that icon now apparently includes the liberty to break the law with impunity, as well as the support of the local clergy and City Hall.

When incoming Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney took over City Hall from the more appropriately named Michael Nutter this year, he got to work quickly. One of his first actions was to firmly establish (or perhaps reestablish) the status of the City of Brotherly Love as a “sanctuary city” where city law enforcement would be forbidden from working with ICE to facilitate the deportation of illegal aliens. (Philly.com)

Kenney said Johnson will send ICE representatives to Philadelphia to brief immigration stakeholders on the new program and try to explain why it does not have the shortcomings of Secure Communities.

“But until that happens,” he said, “we are going back to our old situation,” which, between April 2014 and late last month, barred police and prison officials from telling ICE agents about an undocumented prisoner’s pending release unless the person was convicted of a violent felony and ICE’s request was supported by a warrant.

So Philadelphia has lined up shoulder to shoulder with San Francisco as a home for lawlessness. But even if the cops are barred from working with ICE to remove criminals from the community, ICE can still come in and deport people. (And they do.) So what’s an “undocumented American in waiting” to do if the feds come knocking at their door? Good news! Several members of the local clergy have established a hotline that anyone can call to alert the community support network when ICE is seen prowling the streets or simply doing their jobs. (Washington Post)

Visitation BVM, a multi-ethnic church in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, is a place where each Sunday, multiple Masses are held. There are three in Spanish, one in English and one in Vietnamese. The church is also one of 19 member congregations in the New Sanctuaries Movement. (More information below.) When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced in January plans for mass immigration raids, New Sanctuary members and staff set up the emergency hotline and “Know Your Rights” training sessions for undocumented immigrants.

That’s anathema to some. But, when people living in the United States are detained and the most common result is deportation, a number of matters often require attention. A share of undocumented immigrants live in mixed-status households. So contact needs to be made with legal immigrant and U.S. citizen spouses and children; any plans to reconnect in another country organized; property or businesses sold, medications obtained and child-custody matters sorted.

On the surface, that rather benign description doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. Legal resident families can no doubt run into problems when an illegal family member is captured and deported and could probably benefit from some help with legal questions, paying the bills and other necessities. Rather than yet another government program, getting the local faith community involved is no doubt a helpful approach. But there’s far more to this than just family support for legal residents impacted by the deportation of illegal relatives.

The “hotline” in question is being used to rush people to the scene of ongoing or imminent deportations. Aside from the fact that crowding the area when law enforcement is trying to apprehend a criminal is just a bad idea to begin with, they want to “bear witness” to the deportation. This simply serves to stir up the community against law enforcement, rather than in support of it. Further, they are encouraging calls when someone, “sees ICE on their street.” This isn’t a support activity for legal family members. It’s a tool to tip off everyone in a specific community that law enforcement officers may be on the way, allowing them time to hide or sneak away. That’s a direct effort to obstruct justice and should be punishable by law.

The fact that this “network” can openly promote such activities with the blessing of City Hall shows that Philadelphia is now right up there with San Francisco in terms of lawlessness and a disregard for the safety of the legal residents and citizens of the city. And much like their soul sisters on the west coast, Congress should move to shut down any and all federal funding to Philadelphia until they are willing to comply with the law and uphold their duty to protect the people living there. Philly has already experienced their share of violent crime courtesy of illegal immigrant felons, including the rape of one local woman by an illegal who had been twice deported. Let’s hope they don’t wind up having to bury their own version of Kate Steinle before the residents wake up to what’s going on here.

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