Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hearing in Works to Discuss 'Sanctuary City' Status Petition Drive Urges Help for Immigrants

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hearing in Works to Discuss 'Sanctuary City' Status Petition Drive Urges Help for Immigrants

Article excerpt

A petition drive urging Pittsburgh to adopt a formal "sanctuary city" status will spur a City Council hearing about the idea, probably within the next several weeks.

Recent petitions circulated by the Pittsburgh Sanctuary City Coalition show about 60 signatures - signatures of only 25 city residents who are eligible to vote are needed to trigger a public hearing under city rules. The text urges legislation to ban city agencies from collaborating with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and from disclosing "information about the immigration status of any person."

As with similar policies in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago, the petition says, the idea here is "to help all immigrants and all vulnerable communities feel welcome and safe in Pittsburgh." Activist Greg Godels said established city policies to assist immigrants are helpful but not enough.

"We think it's time to push a step further and really try to make Pittsburgh a leader in terms of offering immigrants a welcome - a real welcome, not just a handshake," said Mr. Godels, 70, of North Point Breeze, who helped with the petition drive.

The group sees a national struggle over "sanctuary city" policies, and wants city and county leaders to turn rhetoric against President Donald Trump into tangible policy, Mr. Godels said.

Definitions can vary for "sanctuary cities," but the term often refers to municipalities that don't cooperate in full with ICE, according to the Marshall Project nonprofit in New York. Legal observers have reported what appears to be dramatically tougher immigration enforcement under Mr. Trump, although federal officials have challenged some depictions.

Pittsburgh officials have straddled the "sanctuary" issue. City police can't detain people based solely on claims about immigration status, but officers should cooperate with ICE authorities to help detain those determined to be subject to criminal investigations, according to city policy.

Campaigning this spring, Mayor Bill Peduto said he would favor Pittsburgh's receiving a "sanctuary" designation. At the time, he said the city already follows many provisions that fall under the common definition. …

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