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Trump threats draw rebuke

Political Notebook

When President Donald Trump issued a sudden threat Friday to release detained immigrants to “sanctuary cities,” the effect was quickly felt in Pennsylvania — home to one of the largest such cities in the U.S.

Trump tweeted Friday that he is considering emptying border detention centers and sending the detainees to cities where local authorities don’t cooperate with federal immigration sweeps.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump wrote. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy — so this should make them very happy!”

Thousands of newly arrived migrants, many of them fleeing Central American countries, are held in a network of southern border camps and facilities as they await processing. Many more remain in detention centers scattered across the country.

Trump’s threat drew a swift reaction in Philadelphia, a so-called sanctuary city where local officials have scaled back cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many cities have ended certain forms of cooperation, including local police help for ICE sweeps.

“People have come to this country, documented or undocumented. They’re hard working and family people. They want a better life,” Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters, comparing Central American immigrants to his own Irish ancestors. “They tend to open up businesses and employ other people. If they reverse the decision and send people here, I’d be happy to have them.”

It’s not the first time the administration has clashed with Pennsylvania’s largest city over immigration policies: A federal judge ruled against the administration in February after Trump tried to cut off grants and funds over the city’s sanctuary status.

Trump’s latest detention center proposal comes amid an ongoing push for legal recognition of a border crisis. Since Trump declared a state of emergency at the Mexican border to secure funding for a wall, federal officials have cited rising immigration numbers as evidence of a crisis.

U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, joined the chorus of GOP officials demanding action. On Thursday, Joyce — a member of the Homeland Security Committee that oversees federal immigration and border agencies — announced a planned visit to the Arizona-Mexico border with a congressional colleague.

“This trip will provide me with a chance to report back to my constituents on the true extent of our problems and undo the damage caused by the Democrats who recklessly claimed for months that there was no crisis at the border,” Joyce said in a written statement.

Some Trump allies have argued that the border situation represents an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Officials recently showed reporters an open-air holding pen under an El Paso bridge, set up by Customs and Border Protection officials, as evidence of the growing problem.

And last week — months after public outcry surrounding the government’s practice of separating migrant children from their families — Joyce told Fox News that children are used as a “fast pass” to enter the country.

“Right now you’re seeing children being used as pawns,” he said.

Meanwhile, with a divided Congress and immigration reform legislation all but abandoned, the administration is discussing plans to send more troops and potentially even close the southern border.

Redistricting plan gets final shot

With time running out to reset Pennsylvania’s legislative districts, two state senators are attempting a Hail-Mary effort that would change the state’s constitution.

Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh, and Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Dauphin, scored a victory last week when their redistricting proposal made its way through a committee. But time is tight, and it’s far from clear that they can generate enough interest to pass the bill into law.

The proposal — requiring a constitutional amendment — would establish an independent, bipartisan commission tasked with drawing new legislative maps.

The current system is dominated by the Legislature, leading to the risk of political line-drawing. The state is routinely listed as one of the most obviously gerrymandered, a status that prompted the state Supreme Court to forcibly redraw congressional boundaries last year.

The Boscola-Folmer plan has to follow tight deadlines: constitutional amendments are slow to pass, and the commission would have to complete its work in time for new Census results. If they fail, it could be well over than a decade before any new system takes effect.

While supporters of a more even-handed system are holding out hope for this session, even the amendment’s sponsors say interest may be lacking.

“This is the only option we have,” Boscola told colleagues, according to WHYY. “The House isn’t doing anything.”

Health tops concerns as Dem field forms

Pennsylvania voters are in for a punishingly long presidential election season, and an ever-growing field of Democratic hopefuls is still taking shape — with familiar names at the top.

With a year to go before the state primaries, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll shows former senator and vice president Joe Biden at the top, despite the fact that he

hasn’t formally announced a bid.

Biden leads among Pennsylvania Democrats with 28 percent of the vote, the poll found. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is in second place with 16 percent, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., trail with 8 percent each. An array of other hopefuls have smaller shares.

The poll included more than 400 Democrats, with a 5.5 percent margin of error.

In addition to early election questions, the poll sought Pennsylvania Democrats’ views on key campaign issues. One point was clear: A sizable plurality believe health care policy is the most important issue at hand, and a majority believe a single-payer “Medicare for All” system is best.

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