Immigrant advocates testify at Council to end police-ICE collaboration

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Protesters demanded that law enforcement end all cooperation with federal immigration officials.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Protesters demanded that law enforcement end all cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Posted: March 14, 2014

IMMIGRANT-RIGHTS advocates packed City Council chambers yesterday during a nearly three-hour hearing to request that city leaders end all collaboration between the local police and federal immigration authorities.

They want Philly police to stop honoring all detainer requests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

They were already preaching to the choir at the City Council Public Safety Committee hearing, moderated by committee chairman Curtis Jones Jr., who, like Council members Jim Kenney, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Jannie Blackwell and others who were in attendance, agree with the advocates' cause.

The city administration, for the most part, is on the same page.

Michael Resnick, the city's director of public safety, said at the crowded hearing that "the mayor will soon sign an executive order that will, in its current draft form, preclude the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Prison System from honoring all ICE detainers, except those where the individual is convicted of a felony of the first or second degree involving violence - and only when ICE secures that detainer with a warrant." Such violent felonies include murder, aggravated assault, human trafficking, rape and robbery.

He added: "This resolves the issue of individuals being detained merely at the request of ICE officials." People who commit minor offenses, including summary or traffic offenses, "will no longer find themselves facing deportation proceedings, ultimate removal and separation from their family," he said.

Resnick added that the "administration is still open to discussion."

Although the draft executive order moves in the direction of what the advocates want, it still does not go far enough for them.

"End all ICE holds!" chanted advocates in the chambers balcony after Resnick finished speaking.

"ICE holds" are requests by federal immigration authorities to police to hold a person who was detained for an alleged crime for up to 48 hours longer so that ICE can take the person - if suspected of being an undocumented immigrant or a noncitizen convicted of certain felonies - into their custody for possible deportation.

Numerous immigrant advocates, including faith leaders, lawyers and people whose families were affected by ICE holds, from all races - white, black, Latino and Asian - testified that any police-ICE collaboration instills fear in immigrant communities, separates families and violates constitutional rights.

Tamara Jimenez, a board member of the interfaith group New Sanctuary Movement who is originally from Nicaragua, testified that she lives "in constant fear that my mother, who is undocumented, could be at the wrong place in the wrong time at any moment."

If a robbery occurred at her mother's bakery, her mother would be afraid to tell police for fear of getting deported, Jimenez said. "We, the immigrant community, see the Philadelphia police as a wing of deportation."

Three people testified that the advocates are asking city leaders and police to break the laws. John Ryan, 65, of Southampton, Bucks County, with Pennsylvanians for Immigration Control and Enforcement (PA4ICE), said that aiding and abetting "illegal aliens" only "encourages more lawlessness."

Margaret Weston-Adelsberger, also with PA4ICE, asked if Council members were rejecting the sovereignty of the United States or the naturalization test.

After their testimony, Kenney, who has been a strong advocate for immigrants, both documented and undocumented, told them: "I feel compassion for you because I am just sad. I have compassion for you. You can't go through life hating."


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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