Philly Needs to Ignore the Hate of Stu Byskofsky, and Make a Smart, Humane Decision to Change our Immigration Policies

Stu Bykofsky is a man in search of enemies. This is old news from the man who suggested that another 9/11 style terrorist attack would benefit America, or when he is rallying Philadelphians to stop the incipient evil doers of our time (bike commuters).

Fresh off of eulogizing his recently deceased, charitably minded, anti-immigrant, racist friend, Joey Vento, (Vento said things like “[Illegal Hispanics] are killing, like, 25 of us a day … molesting about eight children a day … All we’re getting is drug dealers and murderers.”), Stu struck again. This go-round of Stu's is truly hate-filled, and appears to be the work of a zealot, or more charitably, a man fearful of the world changing around him, lashing out in any way he can. The target this time? Those same brown folks Vento hated, and a City Councilwoman that he has a disturbing level of vitriol for-- María Quiñones-Sánchez-- and her efforts to lessen harm from the city's participation in the so-called "Secure Communities" program. (Secure Communities is the federal program that encourages local law enforcement to share data with ICE, letting the feds deport a lot more people than they otherwise would be able to. While Pennsylvania has not yet signed on, Philadelphia has at least one contract to allow ICE real-time access to our arrest records system, called "PARS.")

Before we discuss some of the substance of Stu’s ridiculous column, it is probably worthwhile to quickly dress down his continued xenophobic rants against Councilwoman Sánchez. (Note: for those that don’t know me, I am truly biased in favor of María. I have loooonng supported her, I have donated money to her campaign, I have volunteered for her, and, one of the most important people in my life now works for her. My bias, of course, comes from believing in María, like many other progressives in the city. We would need a lot more of those fabled psychiatry sessions to find out where Stu’s biases come from.)

For many progressives, María is one of ‘ours.’ But, despite the supposed exalted status of incumbency, the party did not support María last May. Instead, most of the structure lined up to support Danny Savage, the young, white, connected ward leader who they had placed in office once before. (If you haven't, please read this piece from a few months ago.)

I go through all of that for Stu, who asks this:

Who is Quinones-Sanchez working for?

Um:

Seventh Councilmanic District, Primary Election, May, 2011
Dan Savage: 39.6%
Maria Quinones Sanchez: 60.4%

Yeah, that happened. It was even in the newspaper.

Stu then goes onto to say other ridiculous things about María, such as "when she puts those here illegally - including ex-cons - above her own constituents, she is unfit to hold office.”

"Unfit to hold office" is probably better than the time he seemed to basically say that she was un-American. But, if you wonder whether the rest of his hate filled, xenophobic rant against María hit its intended audience, check out the ever embarrassing Philly.com comments.

....

Substantively (if we can call it that), Stu’s latest problem is the devastating report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The report is based on case summaries from immigration lawyers, who provided the author with vivid examples of why local and state governments need to seriously consider their participation in Secure Communities. As the report states:

Anecdotal case data collected by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) from its attorney members, representing 127 cases from across the country, offers clear evidence that the way in which DHS engages state and local law enforcement (LLEAs) in immigration enforcement is distracting the department from its stated priorities.

Stu implies that the 127 case studies listed (9 from PA), many of which are totally horrific, are somehow the entire universe of wrongful deportations. This would be clarified if Stu looked up the meaning of the word ‘anecdote,' or bothered to speak with lawyers at places like HIAS or Nationalities Services Center who see these cases first-hand.

Of course, a couple of actual Philadelphia journalists have looked at the data, and it is worrisome, at best:

According to ICE data, 238 of the 421 Philadelphia suspects transferred from Philadelphia Police to ICE custody between October 27, 2008 and February 28, 2011 were never convicted of a crime, one of the highest rates under Secure Communities in the country. Another 86 were classified by ICE as level 2 or 3 offenders and 97 were convicted of level 1 offenses, which are the most serious crimes.

Denvir and Ferrick's article also has those meddlesome anecdotes:

One moment Teresa Garcia's son was there, the next he was gone.

Garcia said her 25-year-old son was deported to Mexico last year after being arrested by Philadelphia police for allegedly making threats against a friend who had failed to repay a loan. Her son was innocent, his mother said. He never got a chance to prove it.

Once arrested, information about him and his case was instantly turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who determined that he was an undocumented immigrant and removed him from the U.S.

The young man had lived in America since he was two. He had no memory of his homeland. Still, back he went.

The City’s response to the above?

Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison sympathizes with critics of the program, but he says that the Mayor is unlikely to change his mind.

"They are supposed to target those in the level 1 [high-level crime] area. We've looked at these, and we have asked them why a lot of people getting deported are in level 2 or level 3. But on a case-by-case basis, that's not really our call," says Gillison. "I can suggest to you that you will find any number of stories that will break my heart, I'm sure. But I'm not dealing with a perfect situation."

I respect Gillison a lot. But that is a totally ridiculous response. Yeah, we know this doesn’t work like it is supposed to. Yeah, you will find cases that break my heart! But, sorry, on we march!

There are a lot of problems with participating in something like Secure Communities.

On the most basic level, we don’t need to participate in the government’s schizophrenic, cruel deportation game (see, for example, these three articles which ran in three days earlier this month: here, here and here), which is targeting human beings who are looking for better lives, and contributing to their communities.

I have personally seen (anecdote alert!) how unscrupulous people threaten immigrants with deportation in order to take advantage of them- oftentimes in explicitly criminal ways. Other stories abound too, including immigrants literally being targeted and attacked on our streets, the cops coming out, not getting interpreters, arresting everyone, including the victims, and before anything is actually sorted out, guess what happens? In other words, not only may witnesses not come forward, but victims may not either, because police make snap judgments, arrest people, and boom, the Deportation Machine, rings the bell, as another life is ruined.

But, even from a pure self-interest angle, in a city with a 'stop snitching' culture, putting up barriers between immigrant communities and the police is a really bad thing. The further we go down this road, the worse this relationship will be, and the less people will talk to the police, no matter how many times the Mayor refers to wanted criminals as cowards or assholes. We don’t want that, right?

Opting out of participation in Secure Communities is what we should do. Period. It is a bad program, that does not work. Opting out is not a crazy position. Officials across the country, including the recently departed, long, long time DA of Manhattan, the Governor of New York and the Mayor of Boston, have lined up against this program. Meanwhile, in Philly, the Mayor’s office admits the program isn’t working right, yet on we go, with the Deportation Machine chugging along.

But, even if we decide to participate in Secure Communities, there is a compromise that could probably work. Strangely, it was proposed by that brown woman that (Daily News Columnist) Stu Bykofsky loves to hate, and it was approvingly endorsed by ... the Daily News editorial board:

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez proposes the city delay the time it allows ICE to access records, until after a preliminary hearing when it is clearer who might be a victim and who might be a defendant. This seems like a reasonable compromise to a tough issue.

How un-American of them. The Daily News Editorial Board is clearly unfit to hold office write editorials.

Our participation in this cruel program hurts the city, hurts good people, and, frankly, it is just really stupid public policy, from a city that makes enough mistakes as it is. The rants of tired old men aside, this compromise is the least we could do.

h/t to Dan Denvir and Tom

h/t to Dan Denvir and Tom Ferrick for their 'Deportation Machine' article and phrasing....

One possible solution -- pass a rider to the City Budget

It would bar the Courts, or the Police Department, or the DA, or whoever is responsible, from using any City funds for the purpose of cooperating with "Secure Communities". Of course, the City Solicitor's Office will immediately declare that any such rider is an illegal exercise of Council's powers under the Charter. In fact, the Solicitor ruled way back in the early 1980's that Council can't enact budget riders after it passed one relating to the School District, telling the Mayor to just ignore it, which he did. Council backed down and did nothing. Council has usually backed down when the Solicitor has instructed Mayors to just ignore its legislation (which happened probably a dozen times when I worked there) but it did sue one time when the Mayor ignored an ordinance requiring the Streets Department to pick up trash at condos. Council won. I think Council might well win this one too (although undocumented workers clearly aren't the political force that condo owners are.) But even if Council didn't win the legal battle, a bill prohibiting, or limiting in some way, the City's use of its funds for cooperation with ICE could produce some very galvanizing hearings. It's time to get this issue out of the shadows and beyond the easy lies and racism of the Stu Bykofskys of this world.

Also time to note: fighting immigration is bad business

Amen to all the above, especially Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez's perspicacious solution.

One way to encourage the better angels of our fellow Philadelphians, in City Hall and out, is to remind them that growing the tax base is essential to everything from restoring/maintaining essential services to providing for the School District and even to paying for long-term economic growth projects like expanding the port.

And if Philly wants to grow the tax base, we have to grow the population.

And we know that Philly's recent turnaround in population growth -- a project decades in the making -- has been accomplished finally (but just barely) thanks to immigration.

Is now the time to mess with that fragile, fragile growth, a flower amid a largely bleak economic landscape?

Heck, we can call opting out (in some form) keeping up with the Jones. Boston? NYC? Aren't these the success story cities so many in City government cite regularly for their good economic practices? Haven't Boston and NYC benefitted economically, haven't they grown their tax bases, largely thanks to their immigration growth?

Shouldn't we once again consider doing what they're doing?

Somewhat relatedly: the Washington Post's Vivek Wadhwa, who advises industry and teaches at Berkeley, Harvard and Duke, is a hot technology and entrepreneurship guru. He's published columns recently advising Mayor Michael Bloomberg that if he wants to make NYC the site of the next Silicon Valley he should encourage immigration and educate the underprivileged and advising the US to finally deal with long-term immigration reform if it wants to help Silicon Valley build for the future.

So: Encouraging immigration is what smart people are advising governments in order to encourage economic growth a project near and dear to the hearts of many in City government.

So: adopting the Councilwoman's smart solution for dealing with Secure Communities is a way to both placate those who fear opting out altogether while still tending to our precious blossom of population growth.

City Hall should think twice about that and consider welcoming the solution --as it should new residents and taxpayers -- with open arms.

sam@dogoodprojects.com

i don't see why philadelphia should opt out

of secure communities altogether . if an undocumented person , say , steals a car or robs someone , i don't see why taxpayers should pay for his jail time.that being said councilwoman sanchez's compromise seems like a good one , as long as ice gets the info before someone can make bail and disappear.

Link on "fabled psychiatry lessons" needs mending

(It goes to the same hit piece linked earlier).

With that intriguing description , I'm hoping you'll fix it.

Sorry, just another

clown

Stu Bykofsky is a buffoon of the highest order.
How high?

Put it this way: he makes me seem like a serious political observer.

I try to drop the "we need another 9/11" line into the comments on every column.

I don't think you'll find

I don't think you'll find our that easily where Stu biases come from, politicians make an art of hiding their biases, we should know this by now. As for the homeland security perceptions I think he is totally wrong and I am surprise to see that there are plenty people that share his vision. I am about to get my online homeland security degree, I am so eager to get out there and make a difference. I'd also like to confront Stu with everything I got.

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