Stop the Hate: Arizona Style Anti-Immigrant Measures in Pennsylvania Must Be Killed

Rep. Daryl Metcalf held hearings over the past two days on what he styled as the "National Security Begins at Home" package of legislation. The hearings included the following bills:

HB 41, HB 355, HB 439, HB 474, HB 738, HB 798, HB 799, HB 801, HB 809, HB 810, HB 856, HB 857, HB 858, HB 865, SB 9

Without getting into each and every one of these bills, let me highlight some things these bills would do:

  • Require the flawed e-verify system to be used by all employers in the state
  • Penalize municipalities that are considered "sanctuary cities" (Reading and Philadelphia both fall into this definition). Penalties could include taking away public benefits from all residents in these cities.
  • Make it a crime to knowingly transport an undocumented immigrant. This would include a church driving an individual to services or a child driving her undocumented mother to the hospital
  • Require identification to be used to access any and all public benefits, despite the fact that an estimated 500,000 citizens in Pennsylvania lack ID (you guessed it: this group includes a disproportionate number of poor, black, and elderly)
  • Allow competitor companies and disgruntled employees to bring lawsuits! against a business for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants. Seemingly no proof is necessary and one can win triple! damages (triple what, I'm not sure, but it sounds big!)
  • Allow police officers to request immigration paperwork of any immigrant and would create a criminal offense for note carrying those papers. How this law will be enforced without racial profiling, I don't know.
  • Deputize local police as ICE agents, able to carry out immigration functions.
  • Deny citizenship to children born in Pennsylvania to undocumented immigrants.
  • and many more fun provisions....

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?


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 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.

Immigration and the Civil Justice System: A CLE Presented by the Philadelphia National Lawyers Guild

Immigration and the Civil Justice System
CLE Presented by the Philadelphia National Lawyers Guild

Topics include public benefits, wage law, workers compensation, protecting immigrant status, and language access to city services, specifically in Philadelphia.

Featuring John Whitelaw, Michael Hollander, and Sarah Paoletti.

Immigration and the Criminal Justice System: A CLE Presented by the Philadelphia National Lawyers Guild

Topics include immigration and criminal justice, impact of convictions, representing non-citizens in criminal cases, local immigration policies, government strategies of immigrant enforcement, and the impact on immigrant communities.

Thursday, November 4, 2010
4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Temple University Center City, Room 408
1515 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102


Mia-lia Kiernan works closely with Cambodian families effected by deportation policy by connecting those families with attorneys and legal advice. Mia-lia graduated from Drexel University with a B.A. in International and Area Studies with a focus in Justice and Human Rights. She spent a semester studying with Centro Internacional para el Desarrollo Humano (International Center for Human Development) in San Jose, Costa Rica. Mia-lia is also a member of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition Public Safety Committee.

Immigration 101: Introduction to Deportation

CLE presented by the Philadelphia National Lawyers Guild
Thursday, October 21, 2010 (4-5:30 p.m.)
Temple University Center City, Room 408
1515 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19102

Topics covered will include the basics of deportation, such as who can be deported, definitions of immigration status, overview of the immigration detention system, bond and parole issues for immigrants, detainee abuse, and practical tips and strategies.

Open to All!

1.5 substantive CLE credits: $50 for private attorneys/$20 for public interest attorneys/$15 for NLG members
Free for law students and non-lawyers!

Introduction to Deportation is Part 1 of a 3 part series on Immigration Law.

Part 2: Immigration and the Criminal Justice System (November 4)
Part 3: Immigration and the Civil Justice System (November 11)

Special price to attend all three CLEs: $110 for private attorneys/$50 for public interest attorneys/$40 for NLG members


Mayor Nutter Can't Have It Both Ways on Immigration

Maria and Mayor Nutter

Mayor Nutter spoke at an immigrant rights rally at Welcome Park yesterday organized by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Reform Immigration for America campaign. The rally was intended to show that Philadelphia is a welcoming city to immigrants, in contrast to Arizona, where the anti-immigrant law SB1070 was implemented in part yesterday.

WHYY News reported that Mayor Nutter said he was excited by the decision of Judge Bolton to strike down key elements of Arizona’s immigration law.

Nutter got cheers from the assembled crowd when he said, “Immigration for some has become the new segregation in the United States, that's what’s really going on, people need to pay attention to what this is about.”

But what is really going on in Philadelphia? What is this really about?

ICE Access to PARS Degrades Public Safety in Philadelphia

In recent days there has been a fair bit of ink spilled over the agreement that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have access to Philadelphia’s PARS database. YPP was no exception to this. Nor was my old friend, Stu Bykofsky. Unfortunately we still stand at a deadlock on this issue. Here is what you need to know about this issue as a progressive.

Vilify exploitative employers, not exploited immigrant workers. Or: Why Stu Bykofsky got it wrong. Again.

I’m a couple of weeks late with this post (vacation, work, etc...), but I’ve been thinking about it since I read Stu Bykofsky’s latest attack on immigrants in the Philadelphia Daily News. What bothered me most about this piece isn’t the long attack on undocumented workers that he posted in his previous piece on the same topic (which I also commented on). What bothers me is his seeming complete lack of logic in this article.


I just returned from Phoenix where I flew in to help support the fight against Arizona State Bill 1070. I went as a part of the assistance team sent by Inter-Alliance Dialog.

During my ten days there I met the incredible leaders of Puente, the movement that is anchoring the fight back effort. Their organizing is steeped in indigenous religion and culture and their perspective is refreshingly different than any other immigrant rights group (in fact they more accurately call themselves "migrant workers" since they were here before there were borders to cross) I have ever worked with.

While there learning and working beside these folks, I also saw some scary racism including people who had put home made swastikas on their car doors and hateful slurs shouted at peaceful protests.

I return ready to fight to keep the hate out of our state and to do what I can to help my brothers and sisters in Arizona, defeat AZ SB 1070.

Walking for a DREAM - NY Trail of Dreams Coming to Philadelphia

Four immigrant youth are walking from Florida to Washington, D.C. on the Trail of Dreams to raise awareness of the DREAM Act, a bill pending in Congress that would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children by their parents.

The walkers on the Florida Trail of Dreams have faced down the KKK and an anti-immigrant sheriff in Georgia, and have been welcomed all along the East Coast by immigrant communities engaged in the struggle for immigration reform.

Inspired by the walkers' courage, a group of immigrant youth from New York set out on April 10 on their own trek to Washington. The New York Trail of Dreams walkers are pushing for passage of the DREAM Act and a moratorium on deportations of all DREAM-eligible youth. They will arrive in Washington, D.C., on May 1 to meet the Florida Trail of Dreams.

Join us in welcoming the NY Trail of Dreams walkers to Philadelphia on Monday, April 19, 11:00 a.m. at University of Pennsylvania campus (details below).

So, got any plans for this weekend?

This is going to be an action packed weekend in DC and around the nation. On Friday, there will be protests of Yoo. On Saturday, there will be a massive antiwar demonstration (there will also be demonstrations in Philly, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and South Dakota, among other places). On Sunday, there will be a large march for immigration reform. And there will be other related events around the country, along with the small protests and events that happen all the time.

(Let me know if I miss anything)


National Coming Out Day for Undocumented Youth

While most eyes are focused on the HCR debate right now, there is another high-stakes legislative issue waiting in the wings. For those whose families and communities are impacted by the problematic immigration system, immigration reform is as crucial as anything else on the Democratic agenda.

But right now, immigrants and advocates are wondering whether immigration reform is even on the agenda of Democrats in Congress and the White House, notwithstanding Candidate Obama’s promise to make immigration reform a top priority during his first year in office.

That’s why I was happy to see the Inquirer’s editorial about the DREAM Act over the weekend.

University of Pennsylvania President Supports the DREAM Act and Immigrant Youth

Every year, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. These students, after growing up in the United States and calling this country their home, are faced with unimaginable obstacles when it comes to continuing their education. Despite these obstacles, these undocumented students have decided to take matters into their own hands and fight for the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. These students are fighting for a piece of legislation called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

We Need Immigration Reform Now! Why Stu Bykofsky got it wrong.

Stu Bykofsky wrote an editorial in the Daily News yesterday slamming calls for immigration reform and the current CIRASAP bill that was recently introduced in the House and has been signed on to by several local politicians. Stu’s essential argument: ‘This bill only helps people who are here “illegally;” if you want to fix the problem, just tell people to get to the back of the line.' This argument is flawed for several reasons. First, immigration reform doesn’t just help those who are here without documents—rather it creates order out of our immigration policy and treatment of immigrants that will help all Americans. Second, there is no line to get on to if you are from a poor country.

Comprehensive immigration reform is absolutely necessary to continue to keep our country functioning. As things stand, we have 12+ million undocumented immigrants in this country. While our legal system generally applies equally to everyone regardless of immigration status (e.g. minimum wage laws, criminal laws), undocumented immigrants live in constant fear of deportation. This fear makes them scared to call the police when they have been the victim of a crime or when they are being exploited by an unscrupulous businessman forcing them to work for half-minimum wage. With such a huge population being exploited on a daily basis, the quality of living for all of us suffers—failure to call the police in the face of crime makes our communities less safe; failure to report unscrupulous employers lowers the wage floor for everyone.

Send them all home, you say? Stu does:

Second, the "path to citizenship" is unpopular, according to a new Zogby poll. Among executives, 59 percent support enforcement to encourage illegal immigrants to go home, 30 percent support conditional legalization; 67 percent of small-business owners support enforcement, and 22 percent approve of conditional legalization. And in union households, 58 percent support enforcement while 28 percent like conditional legalization.

But where does that leave our economy? Living in fear, working for less than the minimum wage, having no healthcare, and not understanding the language spoken in a country are not the kinds things you do unless it is out of necessity—don’t kid yourself and think that undocumented immigrants are here living high off the government. Undocumented immigrants are here to work and working they are. They help to make our economy run. They work in construction, building our houses; as migrant workers, growing our produce; and they open stores, contributing to the local economy. And remember, when you work, you pay taxes, regardless of your immigration status. According to the 2008 report on Social Security, undocumented immigrants (who will never collect social security), will close 15% of the fund’s long term deficit. In 2005, undocumented workers were contributing roughly $7 billion per year into the Social Security trust fund. Money that they will never get back. I’m not saying that we should keep people in a position where they pay in to the system and get nothing back; I’m merely trying to counter the all-too-often repeated argument that undocumented immigrants are here suckling the government teat and giving nothing back. Both parts of that argument are just plain untrue.

And of course, none of this is to speak of all of the things that this bill does for people who are here legally. Wage theft will be reduced, leading to higher wages for all workers; the economy will see a boost of $1.5 trillion; and people like my friend from an unnamed African country will be able to get a visa, who, after a Masters degree in Physics and several nursing degrees all from esteemed US institutions may have to leave the country despite 10 years studying here. All of these factors are very important to our economy, security, innovation, place in the world, and soul as a nation.

And what about this line that we keep hearing about? People are supposed to get back on the line, aren’t they? Even Newt Gingrich understands that there is no sensible line to get on. It is really hard to get a green card, especially if you are from a poor country. Most recently, for WORLDWIDE immigration to the US, we are statutorily capped at about 400,000 people per year. Total. That includes family members, people coming for a specific job, people in the green card lottery, etc… In 2006, it was estimated that somewhere around 1 million people per year were entering the US without authorization. That means that unauthorized entries are more than double the number of visas available each year. That smells like a problem—our numbers should meet the demand from businesses and workers.

Finally, a few parting words:

  • Stu assumes at the end of his article that everyone that he spoke with was undocumented. The only person he really documents is an Argentinean who said that he came here for 2 years, but then decided to stay. How do we know that he is not authorized to be here? Is it because he doesn’t speak English or isn’t white? Would we make the same assumption if a merry old Englishman told Stu the same story? Many Latinos are in this country and city as citizens; some of these people don’t speak any English. We cannot and should not assume that dark skin plus limited English ability = “illegal.” It isn’t right morally and it isn’t correct legally.
  • Jen from the New Sanctuary Movement (whose work I fully support) says that being here without documentation is akin to jaywalking. With all due respect to Jen, I can’t buy this argument—it belittles the problem in a way that would make me think we shouldn’t take it seriously.
  • Stu laments the fact that there would ever be an “amnesty” that would allow a path to citizenship for people who are here without documents. I ask Stu to Google “Tax Amnesty” and then re-ask the question as to whether it ever makes sense for the government to normalize relations with people who may have broken a law in the past. I think he may change his answer.

Specter and Sestak Support Immigrant Youth, Cosponsor the DREAM Act

Each year in the U.S., 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school with limited options for higher education or employment. Many undocumented youth were brought to this country as children, even infants, by their parents. They are indistinguishable in every way but one from their citizen friends, classmates, and siblings: they don’t have a piece of paper that says they can stay here.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would change that. The Act would provide conditional legal status to applicants who:

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