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PA House Republicans Target Illegal Immigration Issue

From fentanyl deaths to public health funding to high-profile criminals like Danelo Cavalcante—an illegal immigrant and convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County Prison and evaded a 500-officer manhunt for two weeks last September—Pennsylvanians are paying the price locally for America’s border chaos. Now, House Republicans want the state legislature to take action, starting with a ban on sanctuary cities in the Keystone State.

“According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 13 counties in Pennsylvania consider themselves sanctuaries. And four municipalities have been labeled ‘welcoming cities,’” House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said at a press conference Wednesday.

“Make no mistake, every time you create a sanctuary city or county, you’re literally moving the national border to your own neighborhood.”

The scope of the illegal immigration problem isn’t in dispute. Customs and Border Protection reported a record 3.2 million “enforcement actions” in fiscal year 2023—five times higher than when President Joe Biden took office. And the CBP reported last week that apprehensions on the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry had exceeded one million in just the first six months of the fiscal year 2024. That doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands entering the U.S. through ports of entry via questionable asylum claims or Biden’s parole system that flies immigrants from Central America directly to American cities.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) touted her legislation requiring a minimum $1 million bail for anyone charged with assaulting a Pennsylvania police officer. She said it was a response to recent cases of illegal immigrants attacking cops and then being released.

White specifically referenced an incident in New York City where a group of illegal immigrants “viciously attacked two NYPD officers, punching and kicking them.”

“After arrests were made, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released several of the suspects without bail, leaving them free to roam the streets to commit more crimes and simply disappear before the next court date,” said White.  “Upon his release, one of the suspects infamously raised his middle fingers at media cameras as he left the courtroom. Make no mistake, that gesture wasn’t just pointed toward the camera. It was pointed toward our police, our laws, and every law-abiding citizen.

“Our police officers deserve to know that their lawmakers here in Harrisburg and their communities back home have their backs,” added White.

Rep. Mike Cabell (R-Luzerne) is sponsoring a resolution to ask Congress and federal agencies to monitor “ghost flights” more closely. Those flights, some of which have landed in Pennsylvania, drop off “large numbers of undocumented immigrants,” said Cabell.

“These ghost flights are untracked and unmonitored. They circumvent and abuse immigration law, undermining the hard work and dedication of immigrants who enter the country legally,” said Cabell.

Rep. Donna Scheuren (R-Montgomery) introduced the Homeowner Protection and Squatter Eviction Act to protect homeowners by toughening squatter penalties. The bill allows homeowners to sign an affidavit allowing police to remove squatters immediately and increases the penalty to a felony for squatters who do more than $1,000 damage. It also requires police to notify ICE if the squatter is here illegally.

Scheuren mentioned several cases, including one from Philadelphia, where a resident had to pay squatters $1,200 to vacate a home he had put up for sale after police said they could not do anything to remove them because of “squatters’ rights.” He also had to pay $600 to clean up their mess.

She quoted U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who said, “This is crazy. Squatters should have no rights whatsoever. How can our colleagues pretend this is anything other than breaking the law?”

The issue of sanctuary cities is at the center of the House GOP’s efforts.

“Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have declared themselves sanctuary cities that will not cooperate with federal immigration officials when they find someone in their cities in this country illegally,” said Cutler. And “recently Lancaster city voted to end its cooperation with the U.S. Customs Enforcement.”

Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) complained Democrats had his bill to prevent municipalities from becoming illegal immigration sanctuaries stuck in committee.

Some Pennsylvania Democrats have complained Republicans are simply using the immigration issue for political purposes and that it doesn’t have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary Americans.

Warner pointed to the example of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old Georgia college student whom an undocumented Venezuelan immigrant allegedly murdered while she was out running on campus.

“If you ask the parents of Laken Riley, I guarantee they’ll tell you (it’s) an issue of personal safety,” Warner said.

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