- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey injected immigration policies into his re-election campaign Monday, taking a shot at Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” status and his Democratic opponent Katie McGinty for supporting what he calls a dangerous and extreme practice.

Toomey’s attack on the refusal of the nation’s fifth-largest city to cooperate with federal immigration authorities brought a swift response from McGinty.

Her campaign accused Toomey of lacking “moral authority” on the issue and of making the matter worse by opposing bipartisan immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate and embracing the “hateful” policies of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

In a press conference in Philadelphia on Monday, Toomey criticized Mayor Jim Kenney’s four-month-old policy ordering city authorities not to comply with federal detainer requests unless they are supported by a judicial warrant and concern someone being released after a conviction for certain violent crimes.

“This is about common sense, and it’s about public safety and putting public safety ahead of political correctness or who knows what is motivating people to disagree with this policy,” Toomey said.

Toomey also pointed out that he is in line with President Barack Obama on the issue. It is the latest way Toomey has looked to show where he agrees with Democrats as he runs for re-election in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans four-to-three.

After Toomey’s Philadelphia press conference, his campaign released a radio ad criticizing McGinty for wanting “to keep extreme sanctuary policies in place, like Philadelphia’s.” Last week, Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, met with Kenney and asked him to make what Toomey called a “very, very modest change” to the city’s sanctuary policy.

Johnson asked the city to notify federal authorities when an immigrant living in the U.S. illegally is going to be released from custody if that person is convicted of a violent felony, is active gang member or suspected of being a terrorist, Toomey said.

“Unfortunately, Mayor Kenney refused,” Toomey said.

McGinty’s campaign said she does not believe sanctuary cities are “the solution.” However, it said the federal government’s recent willingness to ease its “one-size-fits all” request in favor of working with sanctuary cities to identify violent criminals or offenders “is a reasonable request” that McGinty supports, the campaign said.

Kenney’s administration said Monday that evidence suggests that, until the federal government makes meaningful immigration policy changes, sanctuary cities are possibly safer than those that cooperate with immigration authorities because immigrants are not afraid to report crimes or otherwise cooperate with the police.

Critics say cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security can lead to the detention of people for minor violations.

Toomey said he is confident the vast majority of city police officers do not think Philadelphia should be a sanctuary city. Besides, he said, he thinks immigrant communities would rather be safe from a potentially violent crime that could have been prevented had city authorities cooperated with federal immigration authorities.

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