Philadelphia – Alcalde y amigo a los inmigrantes, Jim Kenney ofrece una ciudad que va a proteger a los inmigrantes, una comunidad con pocos votantes.
In becoming the city’s 99th mayor, Jim Kenney’s ten minute address opened with a recognition of the city’s workforce: “Working out in the street right now, in every capacity, to make our city run.”
Within the stately surroundings of the Academy of Music, Monday’s inaugural ceremonies exuded a sense of tradition, camaraderie and humor. Beginning with a personal recollection, the new Mayor recalled first visit to a Mayor’s Reception room where he and his mother saw his father promoted by the Fire Department.
As a Fireman, Mr. Kenney noted that it often meant his father “put other families before his own.” The sacrifice of his parents, Kenney was reinforced by Jesuit teachers at St. Joseph’s Prep. The dual message that he stressed throughout his campaign, that happiness through “service to others.”
On a policy level, Mr. Kenney elaborated on an agenda that includes: expanded Pre-K, stronger neighborhood commercial corridors, community schools and community policing.
While acknowledging the broad scope of these proposals, the South-Philadelphia native said they all stemmed from a “fundamental” principle, “Government functions properly when it’s accessible and accountable to the people it serves.”
Having learned the import of constituent service in his early political career, he asserted, “When government works as it’s supposed to it can dramatically change people’s lives.”
With the city’s 25 percent poverty rate in mind, Mr. Kenney emphasized the need for a variety of services, from an effective “public transit system,” to affordable Pre-K and translators in the Commerce department.
“City government should first and foremost deliver efficient and effective services to every single Philadelphian,” said Kenney. “In reality it is as large and difficult a goal as has ever been announced on this stage.”
Providing effective and efficient services, Kenney continued, means being “ethical and open,” along with educating “all our children where they live.”
In underscoring the need for unity, Mayor Kenney received his loudest applause when he urged putting “aside our differences” and recognizing that, “Black live do matter.” He then asserted that, the “overwhelming majority of our police are decent, hardworking public servants who risk their lives every day.”
Mr. Kenney also called on banks to invest in “small neighborhood businesses,” and corporate executives to extend job opportunities to those who are leaving prison or ‘returning citizens.”
While Philadelphia’s immigrant rights groups: Juntos, New Sanctuary, PICC and HIAS are insistent and vocal in their advocacy, the city’s immigrant community is arguably the city’s least powerful constituency. But in his first act as Mayor, Jim Kenney extended a welcoming hand to immigrants, responding swiftly to repeated calls from advocates for placing due process above policies aimed at accelerating deportation.
Just four hours after being sworn-in as the city’s 99th mayor, Mr. Kenney signed an executive order prohibiting cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration officials, restoring the city’s “sanctuary city” status that had lapsed weeks ago. As a sanctuary city – a policy followed in more than 30 other cities- local police will not not raise questions of immigration status or honor ICE Holds except in cases where an individual is convicted of a first or second degree felony.
The new Mayor explained that he had discussions with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson over the “Priority Enforcement” initiative which has supplanted the more controversial, “Secure Communities” program. The new Mayor said the city was returning to “our old situation.”
For Seventh District Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who was also sworn-in Monday, Mayor Kenney’s executive order was a “very important step,” delivering a message to immigrants that “we appreciate you and the -economic and population growth,” they have brought to the city.
“Jim was a key person on” developing the original executive order back in April of 2014.
A Radio commentator and advocate for increased access to healthcare, Pedro Rodriguez similarly praised the Mayor’s action, “It’s a powerful message to an immigrant community, that says this administration wants to work with you as an ally. He wants immigrants to see government as a place to go to help businesses prosper and “not to fear.”
Looking forward to City Council’s working with the Kenney administration, Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez suggested a couple of immediate priorities, including working on a “neighborhood strategy,” establishing municipal IDs, and implementing his notion of community-based schools. The community school plan, discussed by Kenney, is a plan inspired by an educational initiative in the city of Cincinnati and promoted by Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez, her husband Tomas Sanchez and Danilo Burgos in a prior campaign. “It’s really a validation of what we’ve been working on.”
Pedro Rodriguez also expressed enthusiasm for the new Mayor’s plans for Pre-K and his neighborhood approach of funneling “resources” to community endeavors.