LEHIGH COUNTY-Commissioners talk immigration status
Lehigh County Commissioners gave preliminary approval for the 2019-20 Capital Plan July 25. In gross numbers, the plan calls for a five-year grand total expenditure of $129,107,334.
The first reading of the plan passed 8–0. Commissioner Brad Osborne was absent.
Some big-ticket expenses being funded in 2019 include replacement of the voting system - $3.5 million; the Coplay to Northampton Bridge - $5 million; courthouse upgrades - $1.06 million.
The fledgling Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society, headed by former Allentown City mayoral candidate and former 15th Congressional District candidate Siobahn “Sam” Bennett who is also the former CEO of the nonprofit Properties of Merit, finally got some of the money it asked for – $2,000. Its initial request for $5,000 was whittled down after Lehigh County Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty said the nonprofit was too new and that older, more established nonprofits were getting less.
In citizen comments attorney David Harrington of Lower Milford Township warned the commissioners and Lehigh County against revisiting Lehigh County law 2014-36 which he said sets the “specifics of interplay between ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and authorities in Lehigh County.”
According to Harrington, the Supreme Court in U.S. v State of Arizona held in 2012 that states lack the constitutional ability to make or enforce immigration laws at the state or local level.
Harrington said he had heard rumblings that some elements of the local Tea Party want police to ask immigrants they come in contact with about their immigration status. He said he could “guarantee a lawsuit” if Lehigh County passes a law requiring that the local sheriff’s officers try to enforce federal immigration law.
In a separate interview, Dean Browning, chairman of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party’s immigration committee, provided a different perspective. “Lehigh County does not honor detainer requests unless accompanied by a judicial order issued by a judge of the courts.”
He said the procedures that allowed an American citizen to be erroneously detained by Lehigh County Jail officers have changed. The procedure now, according to Browning, is that detainees are fingerprinted, the prints sent to the FBI, then when ICE reviews them they may decide to issue a “detainee warrant” if the detainee is an illegal immigrant. He asserts that there is no longer a need for a judge to approve an ICE warrant.
“It is our view,” said Browning, “that it is time to revisit [Lehigh County law] 2014-36. Times have changed.”
In response to claims that Lehigh County is not a “sanctuary” city, Browning added, “The facts are that, as the result of a lawsuit settlement in 2014, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that said Lehigh County would not honor detainer requests issued by ICE unless they were also accompanied by a judicial issued order. It is this provision that makes Lehigh County non-complaint and a sanctuary jurisdiction.”