Stu Bykofsky: Councilwoman Sanchez not in step on the ICE issue

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, at odds with mayor and D.A. over ICE compromise.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, at odds with mayor and D.A. over ICE compromise. (   APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 29, 2011

BY WEDNESDAY, the city - actually the mayor, the district attorney and the 1st Judicial District - must decide whether to end an agreement to provide information on people arrested in Philadelphia to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Until last year, the city provided ICE with the names, fingerprints and biographical info of those arrested, plus names of witnesses and victims. Mayor Nutter thought that discouraged witnesses and victims from coming forward, so it was agreed ICE would not get the victims' and witnesses' data. ICE, the mayor, the D.A., the courts agreed it was a fair, sensible compromise.

Opposition to continuing the agreement now is building among the willfully ignorant, the undocumented enablers and the terminally soft-hearted.

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez put out a press release demanding an end to the agreement, riding a report from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, an advocacy group.

I have no faith that Quinones-Sanchez read the AILA report. I did, and spoke to one of the authors.

The very title of the report, "Immigration Enforcement Off-Target: Minor Offenses with Major Consequences," concedes there were offenses. The issue, says Alexsa Alonzo, a co-author of the report, is not that the government acted illegally, but that there's a gap between word and deed. Largely because of limited resources, ICE said, it won't target people who have not committed a second crime - the first one is being here illegally - but some non-offenders have been deported.

ICE should keep its word, but the law says anyone here illegally is subject to deportation. No "second" offense is required.

The AILA report says there were 400,000 deportations in the last year for which we have numbers. After the AILA asked its 11,000 members to report questionable (not illegal) deportations, it came up with 127 cases. That's 127 out of 400,000.

Of the 127, nine were in "Pennsylvania." How many in Philadelphia? I asked. AILA could confirm only one. So, for one possibly bad case out of 400,000, Quinones-Sanchez wants the city to stop cooperating with ICE, putting 1.5 million Philadelphians at risk.

At risk? Yes. ICE now gets access to the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System so it can search arrest records for those with prior criminal records.

ICE should know "about illegal immigrants who commit crimes in our city," says D.A. Seth Williams. Without federal input, these ex-cons might be turned loose to rob, rape and murder Philadelphians.

Quinones-Sanchez's insane notion would shield guilty non-citizens and let them prey on innocent citizens. Why? So that Quinones-Sanchez and her allies can feel good about how simpatico they are? Some ideas are too simple for the high-minded to comprehend. Illegal immigration is illegal. They don't seem to get it.

America does. A nonpartisan Pew Research poll reports that by an overwhelming 78 percent to 19 percent, Americans want strengthened immigration enforcement.

But Quinones-Sanchez wants sanctuary for all undocumented - the good ones and the bad ones, too. She would protect criminals.

First Judicial District Court Administrator David Wasson says the court is "OK with the agreement as is," and Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison tells me the program "is working the way it is supposed to work."

Who is Quinones-Sanchez working for? Who pays her salary? Where is her allegiance?

It looks like the city will continue the agreement that keeps us safe. As for the reliably ill-informed Quinones-Sanchez, when she puts those here illegally - including ex-cons - above her own constituents, she is unfit to hold office.


Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

www.philly.com/Byko.

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