ShareThis Page
Political Headlines

Pittsburgh-area GOP candidates seize on sanctuary city issue as 'electoral weapon'

Wes Venteicher
| Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, 5:42 p.m.
Paul Mango
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Paul Mango

Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango attacked the protections sanctuary cities provide immigrants in a Friday morning Twitter post.

In a short video, Mango mentioned a San Francisco jury's Thursday acquittal of a man charged with first-degree murder in the 2015 death of a 32-year-old woman. The defendant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, had been deported five times and was back in the city when she was shot. Zarate said he had fired the weapon accidentally, according to the Associated Press.

Mango said the man would not have been in the city had San Francisco cooperated more closely with federal immigration authorities.

"As your next governor I will guarantee you this: We are not going to tolerate sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Mango said in the video, filmed after what he said was his morning jog.

The sanctuary city designation generally refers to cities that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Philadelphia is a designated sanctuary city, while Pittsburgh has an "unbiased policing" policy that prohibits officers from asking residents about immigration status but lets them help federal agencies track down immigrants with criminal warrants.

Mango did not go into detail in the video about actions he would take against sanctuary cities, and did not immediately respond to an interview request Friday.

Supporters of stronger sanctuary city protections for Pittsburgh have said threats of deportation make immigrants reluctant to report crime or call for emergency medical help. They have said most immigrants are hard-working people seeking safe harbor, and are no more likely than regular citizens to commit crimes.

President Donald Trump, who made illegal immigration a major campaign issue, weighed in on Thursday's verdict on Twitter, calling it a "complete travesty of justice" and renewing his call for a border wall.

Regional Republicans are making sanctuary city protections a campaign issue.

Rick Saccone, a state representative from Elizabeth who is running in a special election race for Congress, published a video on the topic Thursday. Saccone said in the video that he supports legislation to get rid of state grants for sanctuary cities and to guarantee access to jailed immigrant suspects for federal agents.

"It's time we support our law enforcement agencies and end this lawless practice," he said.

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, touched on the issue in a re-election announcement Tuesday, calling sanctuary city designations a "reckless practice."

"That's something on the Republican side that is used as an electoral weapon," said Philip Harold, a professor of political science at Robert Morris University.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, drummed on the issue in his successful campaign for U.S. Senate last year. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie successfully used the issue to gain an edge over a primary opponent before losing in the general election last month, Harold said.

"Whether or not it is necessarily a huge social problem, it's kind of the idea of it as a problem" that appeals to voters, he said.

Proposals in both chambers of Pennsylvania's General Assembly would eliminate state grants for sanctuary cities.

Mango is campaigning against three other candidates in the Republican primary race for governor.

House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, cast his first vote against sanctuary cities in 2015 and continues to oppose them, campaign spokesman Jeff Coleman said.

"He's taken the long, strategic, tactical approach that really ends incentives and rewards for cities that embrace illegal immigration," Coleman said.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, is a co-sponsor of the Senate sanctuary cities bill.

"Scott not only says that he opposes sanctuary cities but has a record of doing something about them," spokesman Jason High said in an email.

A campaign spokesman for Laura Ellsworth, a Pittsburgh-based attorney seeking the GOP nomination, didn't respond to a request for information.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office did not respond to requests for comment by deadline Friday.

San Francisco was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt a sanctuary law in 1989, and will remain one, according to the AP.

Trump campaigned on the San Francisco case, revolving around the death of Kate Steinle, who was walking with her father on a pier when she was shot in the back. Garcia Zarate said he found the gun under a chair and accidentally fired it when he picked it up.

Jurors rejected murder charges but convicted him of a firearms charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of three years. He has already served two years in jail and federal authorities have said they will deport him, according to the AP.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me