Philadelphia Council seeks to end pact with U.S. immigration agency

Posted: June 24, 2011

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

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