“Could you please stop referring to us as ‘these people’?”
On Monday, a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups paid a visit to Pennsylvania State Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia) to discuss a bill she wrote that would undermine sanctuary cities and municipalities. Things did not go well.
The TL:DR version of White’s bill is twofold:
1. Sanctuary municipalities would be held financially responsible for any damage caused by an undocumented immigrant charged with a crime.
2. Sanctuary municipalities could not restrict local law enforcement from communicating and passing on information to federal authorities (namely Immigrations and Customs Enforcement). Further, police would have the right to ask people about their immigration status.
If passed, municipalities would have to file reports on the regular, showing that they are in compliance. Noncompliance would result in the municipalities’ loss of state funds.
Which brings us to why members of advocacy groups Juntos, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizen Coalition, the New Sanctuary Movement, and Make the Road PA, visited State Rep. White at her office. Though uninvited, White brought the group into her office to discuss the bill. Things were off to a fine start until one of the advocates pointed out that White’s bill is laced with racist rhetoric. Once the R-word got dropped, White became apoplectic and defensive. Shortly thereafter, White told the advocates to GTFO of her office.
Here’s the thing, though: The pro-immigration groups have a point. There are a lot of problematic aspects to White’s bill. For starters, it implies that undocumented immigrants are committing so much crime that actual legislation needs to be passed to address it. Time and time again, data has proven that the opposite is true. Then there’s the provision that would give police the authority to ask for people’s immigration status if the officer suspects that person undocumented. Given that the majority of undocumented immigrants are either Latino or Asian, it’s difficult to see how this would not result in racial profiling. That will surely be a headache for the close to 900,000 Latinos (or 6.6 percent of the total population). that call Pennsylvania their home.
Then there’s the difficult-to-ignore fact that State Rep. White cited a study conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as justification for her bill. The Souther Poverty Law Center — a non-profit civil rights organization that identifies hate groups nationwide — labeled FAIR a hate group for spewing anti-immigrant rhetoric.
For her part, State Rep. White has defended her bill and denies any claims of racism: