Pennsylvania Bill to Prohibit Sanctuary Cities in State Clears Senate Committee

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Jan. 27, 2017) – A bill that would effectively prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with enforcement of some federal immigration laws passed a Pennsylvania Senate committee on Wednesday.

A coalition of 22 Republican senators sponsored Senate Bill 10 (SB10). The legislation would require the governing body of all Pennsylvania municipalities, their officers and employees. and local law enforcement agencies to act as federal agents.

It would require them enforce each and every federal law, mandate, request and order relating to immigration, as long as they “do not conflict with the rights guaranteed under the U.S. or Pennsylvania constitutions.” The bill further prohibits any local government from adopting “a rule, order, ordinance or policy which prohibits the enforcement of a federal law or the laws of this Commonwealth, pertaining to an immigrant or immigrations.”

Any municipal government or law enforcement agency violating the provisions of the proposed law would lose state grants and eligibility to participate in the sale of surplus state property. It would also make a “municipality of refuge” liable for damages caused by an individual released from custody who was the subject to and immigration detainer request.

Passage of this legislation would effectively prohibit the establishment of sanctuary cities in the state.

SB10 passed the Senate Local Government Committee by an 8-4 vote.


Some U.S. cities, and the state of California, have refused to participate in a narrow segment of federal immigration enforcement. In all of these situations, government and law enforcement agencies in these cities don’t actively stop ICE from enforcing immigration laws. However, in a narrow sense, they simply don’t provide any support or assistance to federal agents. These cities leave it to the federal government to enforce federal law.

Non-cooperation with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states or their political subdivisions to help implement or enforce any federal act or regulatory program.

It would appear that Pres. Trump recognizes this as well. In his Jan. 25 Executive Order on “sanctuary jurisdictions,” he acknowledges that his policy of having state and local agents act as interior federal immigration enforcement will be done “with the consent of State or local officials.”

The represents a constitutional way to force cities to help enforce immigration laws. The federal government cannot do it do it. But it a state decides it wants to spend its time, money and resources assisting the federal government, they can certainly make that choice.


SB10 will now move to the full Senate for further consideration.

Image via Road Warrior on Flickr

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.