City to end some police cooperation with immigration officials

City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said the proposed policy change "shows what cities can do until Congress deals with comprehensive immigration reform."
City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said the proposed policy change "shows what cities can do until Congress deals with comprehensive immigration reform." (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 14, 2014

'The pernicious impact" of federal immigration enforcement "on certain communities in Philadelphia" is pushing the city to curtail police cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Public Safety Director Michael Resnick said Wednesday.

At a City Council hearing packed to the balcony benches with immigrant-rights groups, Resnick said Mayor Nutter would soon sign an executive order barring police and prison officials from honoring immigration detainers except when a suspect in custody was previously convicted of a violent felony and ICE obtained a warrant to support the detainer request.

An earlier draft, a copy of which The Inquirer obtained, would have upheld detainers for people arrested and accused of a violent crime but not yet tried.

"In its current draft form," Resnick told Council's Committee on Public Safety Wednesday, the initiative "resolves the issue of individuals being detained merely at the request of ICE officials."

Philadelphia's new policy "is huge. It's historic," Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said. "It shows what cities can do until Congress deals with comprehensive immigration reform."

Councilman James F. Kenney said local police should not be doing the work of federal agents.

"When two young Mexican kids get into a fistfight and get hauled off to the Fourth [Police] District and there's an ICE agent waiting in the lobby, that's not right," he said.

Resnick cited "the tireless work of the advocate community" for prompting the new draft.

Yet some advocates said in testimony and interviews after the three-hour hearing that the new draft does not go far enough.

"Ask the mayor to change his mind and end all ICE holds," testified Vera Tolbert, past president of the Union of Liberian Associations in America.

Across America, advocacy groups have pushed municipalities to modify data-sharing and law enforcement relationships between police and ICE.

When police honor an ICE hold, they book a defendant, share his fingerprints with ICE, and instead of releasing him to face charges, detain him for 48 hours so ICE agents can investigate and interrogate.

About 17 localities have banned or modified ICE holds, including Miami, San Francisco, Newark, New Orleans, and New York City.

More than 25 witnesses testified Wednesday.

Several said fear about ICE detainers impeded local law enforcement because people were afraid to approach and share information with police.

Speaking for a minority in attendance, John Ryan, Vince Weston, and Margaret Weston-Adelsberger held a banner promoting the group Victims of Illegal Alien Crime, voiac.org, which describes its mission as tracking crimes committed in the United States "by foreign nationals, including illegal aliens."

In his testimony, Ryan urged Council members "not to yield to the demands of leftist human rights groups" who want to "install radical-left mind control" and "embrace a world without borders."


mmatza@phillynews.com

215-854-2541 @MichaelMatza1

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