Advocates press Phila. to end immigrant detainer pact

Posted: February 22, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Four City Council members and a coalition of immigrant-aid groups on Thursday urged Philadelphia to end its agreement with federal agents to hold without bail undocumented immigrants for deportation, even those not convicted of a crime.

In a City Hall news conference, advocates said a Nutter administration draft order to modify the pact is not enough.

"Because someone is charged doesn't mean they are guilty," said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez. "Let the process play itself out before you get a federal agency involved."

The unsigned draft order, a copy of which was obtained by The Inquirer, would end compliance with immigration detainers except when defendants are accused of certain felonies.

Opponents say such detainers are unnecessary because no bail or very high bail is set for serious crimes, keeping people in custody in the criminal-justice system. Immigration matters are generally civil violations.

Councilman James F. Kenney said he hoped the draft order "will expand" to dump the pact altogether.

The Council members spoke at a news conference in which advocates blasted "ICE holds," requests that local police hold people accused even of minor crimes for 48 hours so federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents can take over and begin deportation proceedings.

"Philadelphia does not have to comply with these ICE hold requests, because they are not criminal warrants, they are not reviewed by a judge, and they are not mandatory," said Blanca Pacheco, an organizer with the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.

"We have sister cities who have been much more progressive than we have," Sánchez said. "A detainer by itself is not the answer. The Police Department has all of the power it needs to fully investigate, prosecute, convict, and, when necessary, when somebody is convicted, initiate a deportation."

Last summer, the Newark, N.J., Police Department stopped granting federal detainer requests. Nationally, about 17 localities, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, also reject them.

"When we want to involve government entities . . . they abdicate that responsibility," Kenney said. "They don't want to help us with education. They don't want to help us with the things we need. But they want to help us deport people from our city."

Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell urged advocates to testify when Council holds hearings on ICE-police relations March 3.

Ubon Mendie, spokesman for ICE-Philadelphia, said in a statement that detainers "ensure that dangerous criminal aliens and other priority individuals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities."


mmatza@phillynews.com

215-854-2541 @MichaelMatza1

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