New Sanctuary Movement Philadelphia

Living with fear of the people you need to protect you: Immigrant communities respond to local collaboration with ICE

Our Stories Give Us Power: Guadalupe Hernandez from Center for Constitutional Rights on Vimeo.

We are still waiting on a decision whether the city will keep allowing ICE, the federal immigration enforcement agency, to access its arrest database, called PARS. (Dan wrote last week about how our DA, who got national exposure this weekend for his many other progressive ideas, may be the swing vote to change this destructive policy.)

A lot of the discussions about whether local law enforcement should assist with immigration enforcement work are pretty abstract. Some argue that once people are in the criminal justice system, they are fair game - even though being arrested doesn't mean you are guilty of any crime. And there are differing ideas and prejudices about what rights non-citizens have.

But all this is pretty academic. Immigration status is not binary ('legal,' 'illegal'). Some people are in the process of obtaining status, some families are mixed, sometimes names and arrest records get mixed or messed up.

In the real world, in Philadelphia's neighborhoods, different things become clear. In many situations, like fights and domestic incidents, people do get arrested but are never charged with a crime. Frequently even the victim or a witness can get pulled in, later released once the police work through language and other issues to figure out who the culprits really are. Victims - of theft, abuse - refuse to call police or make complaints when they think local law enforcement may be communicating with ICE.

I am hoping that the decision makers vote to end the contract to allow ICE to access the PARS database, and pull back from the broader 'Secure Communities' program. In order to effectively deal with crime, which is our local responsibility, we need to build the trust that these collaborations destroy.

The community groups Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement, and the Philadelphia Storytelling Project have created a series of testimonies showing the human consequences of these policy decisions.

And many of these groups have organized a community forum for this Sunday June 27, 2-4 pm at Annunciation B.V.M. Church at 10th and Dickinson in South Philadelphia, where people will come together to tell politicians and the city why to say no to PARS access and Secure Communities. Please come out and listen.

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