PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A cornerstone of the Trump campaign was a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey took the fight to the floor of the Senate while members of Pittsburgh City Council discussed formalizing Pittsburgh as a Sanctuary City.
Pittsburgh’s South Side is a world away from Levana Melamed’s hometown of Santiago, which is located in the countryside of Panama.
“Since I’ve been here, I feel Pittsburgh is a very friendly city. I’ve had no issues ever,” says Melamed. “Everyone is very welcoming and that’s exactly why I love this city, and if it goes a different way that would be very sad.”
Melamed is in the United States legally.
“In Pittsburgh, we are a melting pot,” says City Councilman Corey O’Connor. “We have people from all across the world living here and we want to treat them with the same respect as we treat Pittsburghers with.”
In other words, a Sanctuary City. They are places where illegal immigrants aren’t hunted down by local police, and are only challenged on their immigration status if they commit a crime and end up in jail.
City Council is interested in making that policy.
“To provide the resources to protect those who have come into this city to make a better life for themselves,” said City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle.
In Sanctuary Cities, local police don’t’ do the work for federal immigration authorities.
But on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Toomey made an impassioned argument to crack down on Sanctuary Cities.
“This is absurd. This is very, very dangerous,” said Sen. Toomey.
However, critics fear a crackdown will lead to profiling.
“Let the man walk down the street, let him get in his car, stop profiling,” says Floyd Thomas, of Homewood.
“Honestly, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re not bothering me,” added Celeste Daniels, of Mount Oliver.
Sen. Toomey though says that if cities won’t cooperate with the feds, federal dollars should be withheld.
“Specifically, my legislation would withhold community development blockgrants,” the senator said.
The very funds City Council was dolling out today.
If Immigration and Customs Enforcement ask Pittsburgh Police to hang onto someone they have already detained, unlike in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh Police will comply.
Sen. Toomey wants the Senate to act, but he’s also calling on President-elect Donald Trump to take whatever executive action he can, once in office, until Congress can act.