Bucks County Officials Hit Back At Political Commentator’s ‘Sanctuary’ Claim

Bucks County officials countered claims made on a political commentary show that labeled the area as a “sanctuary” county.

The Bucks County Correctional Facility in Doylestown Township. File photo.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

Bucks County officials responded this week to a list aired by a political commentator on Fox News Channel recently that showed the area as a “sanctuary” county.

As this news organization reported in years past, think tank Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for low immigration, put Bucks County on its sanctuary list. The group uses an its own criteria when deeming governments as alleged sanctuaries for people who are in the country illegally.

Fox News Channel commentator Jesse Watters’ program ran the list of deemed “sanctuary cities” last Wednesday while he was speaking with GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz about immigration.

Bucks County Commissioners Chairperson Diane Ellis-Marseglia said it was her understanding that the list on Fox News Channel was based on Center for Immigration Studies data.

Commissioner Chairperson Diane Ellis-Marseglia.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The group posted online that Bucks County became a “sanctuary” county in 2014 when Republicans held the majority in county government.

At the time, GOP county officials denied the “sanctuary” claims and noted that they were following the laws that were on the books.

Ellis-Marseglia, who was the lone Democratic commissioner in 2014, said officials were confused by the designation at the time.

“We are not one. We didn’t know about it,” she said this week.

“We’re not a sanctuary city,” said District Attorney Jennifer Schorn, a Republican.

District Attorney Jennifer Schorn in the past.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The district attorney explained that if a person in the country illegally is arrested for a crime they would be subjected to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer. Federal authorities would then take the person to a federal holding center.

“That has been the case, and we will continue to prosecute all crimes,” she said.

Immigration laws are enforced by the federal government and not local, county, or state officials.

Bucks County Department of Corrections Director David Kratz said a court ruling years ago does not allow county jails to hold people on immigration detention requests from federal authorities, but they can be held on immigration holding orders signed by a federal judge.

Corrections Director Dave Kratz addressing reporters.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

Bucks County corrections staff cooperates with immigration officials when they wish to interview someone in detention, when fingerprints are needed, and advises immigration authorities if someone they are looking at is about to be released from jail, Kratz said.

The corrections director stated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has access to county prison records.

“Unequivocally, Bucks County is not a sanctuary county. Both this administration and the prior administration fully cooperate with all federal immigration authorities,” Bucks County Solicitor Amy Fitzpatrick said.

The county government’s top attorney said they do not have control what third-party groups label them.

Jessica Vaughan, a policy analyst for Center for Immigration Studies, said she stands by the list and the fact it marks Bucks County as a “sanctuary.” She added that she believes many county officials might not fully understand complex immigration law, including policies related to whether counties can hold someone on requests from federal authorities.

A spokesperson for Fox News Channel and “Jesse Watters Primetime” did not respond for comment.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.

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