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Pennsylvania county terminates 'sanctuary' status amid fentanyl crisis

Pennsylvania State Representative Stephenie Scialabba (Image Source: Fox News Digital video screenshot)

Officials from Butler County, Pennsylvania, terminated the jurisdiction's "sanctuary" status on Tuesday due to the area's worsening fentanyl crisis, WTAE-TV reported.

Sanctuary jurisdictions are cities, counties, and states with policies that protect illegal migrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, these jurisdictions obstruct law enforcement by either prohibiting local agencies from "complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers."

This week, Butler County rescinded its sanctuary status following an effort led by Republican Representative Stephenie Scialabba. The county's prison board unanimously voted to overturn the policy, citing a fentanyl trafficking crisis.

County District Attorney Richard Goldinger stated, "Our crime is not just DUIs and retail theft anymore. We have drugs."

"Again, that stuff has not come from citizens that are making fentanyl in Butler County. It's being brought here," Goldinger added.

In 2021, there were 66 overdose deaths in the county, 57 of which were linked to fentanyl.

While Pennsylvania is not designated a sanctuary state, 16 counties and cities within the state have sanctuary status, including Philadelphia and Allegheny County.

Scialabba explained that Butler County's former sanctuary status served as "a calling card for more crime" and "did not reflect our intentions or practices."

County Commissioner Kim Geyer stated that the former designation "created a lot of heartache and angst" for residents.

"It's a safe place to live here," Scialabba said. "It's a safe place to work here. And we welcome you, and we want immigrants here. That is what our country is founded on. However, you have to come here legally. You cannot come here, commit a crime, and think that we are not going to cooperate with ICE to have you out of here."

Since rescinding the sanctuary status, Butler County Prison announced that it would provide ICE with a list of inmates weekly. It also noted that it would accept ICE detainers with a warrant and grant the law enforcement agency access to the prison and its inmates.

Scialabba told Fox News Digital, "You would never think of Butler County or Pennsylvania as a border state, but, unfortunately, it seems like borders don't matter anymore. So, we are seeing an increase in fentanyl deaths and overdoses. We are seeing increases in drug trafficking, human trafficking."

She noted that the community's reaction to overturning the policy has been "overwhelmingly positive."

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