Archive | Press (Pennsylvania)
City Council wants to end a three-year-old information-sharing agreement with federal immigration authorities, saying cooperation meant to root out criminals is creating fear of police among undocumented but otherwise law-abiding immigrants.
On Thursday, Council voted, 17-0, for a nonbinding resolution calling for an end to an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the main investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
That agreement, signed in 2008, gives ICE agents access to city arrest data. The city amended the agreement last year to exclude witness and victim information.
Mayor Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, and the First Judicial District must sign off on the agreement, which expires Aug. 31.
Council members James F. Kenney and Maria Quiñones Sánchez oppose all aspects of ICE’s “Secure Communities” program, in which fingerprints of arrestees in Philadelphia are matched against ICE’s immigration databases. The program’s stated targets are dangerous criminals.
Governors in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York have stopped participating in Secure Communities, voicing similar objections.
Recently released federal data showed that 348 of 583 suspects turned over to ICE by Philadelphia police were never convicted of a crime, according to Sánchez’s office.
That has thrown up a wall between immigrants and police, because victims are reluctant to report crimes for fear of being deported, advocates say.
Williams, through a spokeswoman, reiterated his support for the agreement. Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, said the administration would “review how things have worked out over the past year.”
Saying she had yet to see the resolution, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield declined to comment. – Jeff Shields
Pro-immigrant protest hits Philadelphia City Hall
By Michael Matza, Inquirer Staff Writer
Carrying cardboard coffins and wearing “Day of the Dead” masks, pro-immigrant groups led by the New Sanctuary Movement marched on Philadelphia City Hall and the District Attorney’s Office on Monday, seeking to end the contracts that govern cooperation between local police and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Critics of the agreements, under which police share preliminary arrest data with ICE, say they lead to racial profiling and cause immigrants to fear and avoid encounters with police. The resulting reluctance to report crimes makes communities less safe, they say.
Supporters of the agreements say they are necessary components of security and border control.
The 60 demonstrators wore black veils and carried three coffins – marked “Bury Fear,” “End PARS,” and “End Secure Communities” – that they deposited outside the District Attorney’s Office building.
PARS – the city’s Preliminary Arrest Reporting System – was a subject of controversy last summer when the Nutter administration said it intended to end the contract, then extended it for a year under a compromise that removed the names of victims and witnesses from the database. Critics contend the compromise did not go far enough.
Secure Communities is another county-federal program designed to target violent criminal aliens for deportation, but its critics say it snares many “non-dangerous individuals,” too.
The demonstration included street theater on the apron of City Hall. An Aztec dance troupe banged a drum, burned incense, and used conch-shell trumpets to call down support for their cause from the heavens. A choir led by members of Central Baptist Church, of Wayne, sang protest standards, including “We Shall Not be Moved” and Spanish verses of “This Land is Your Land.”
Congregation member Caroline Cargo, of Paoli, said Central Baptist was part of the original church sanctuary movement of the 1980s, when it offered protection against deportation to Central Americans fleeing wars in their countries.
Participating in Monday’s protest was a natural extension of that tradition, she said.
Lily Jamali reports for PRI’s The World from New York on challenges by immigration activists to local-federal law enforcement collaboration on immigration enforcement. The challenges have been spurred further by the new law on immigration passed by Arizona recently. Listen to the podcast with the player below.
This audio feature was originally published at PRI’s The World website.