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?

Is this the same Michael Nutter whose Philadelphia Parking Authority recently set up a ruse operation with ICE to arrest 26 Philadelphia taxi drivers and put 23 of them into deportation proceedings? (Two of the other three drivers were citizens – oops!)

Is this the same Michael Nutter whose staffer lied at a community meeting in South Philly last month, saying, “It is the mayor's view that the PARS agreement should not be extended,” with the mayor approving another one year contract with ICE just three weeks later?

Read Mike H’s explanation of how permitting ICE access to the city’s PARS law enforcement database undermines public safety and leads to racial profiling. Essentially, any arrest of any person who “looks illegal” by local police can lead to detention and deportation by ICE. The protections that are supposed to vest in the criminal justice system when a person is arrested suddenly disappear when a person is transferred to ICE custody and placed into civil immigration proceedings. This neat trick eviscerates the presumption of innocence and leads to racial profiling by local police with absolutely no accountability, which is what is happening right now in Philadelphia.

Is this the same Michael Nutter who embraces ICE’s Secure Communities initiative in Philadelphia, which integrates local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement, while denouncing Arizona’s SB1070, which integrates local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement?

Some members of the immigrant rights community are pushing back against Mayor Nutter’s duplicity.

Maria Marroquin, a local undocumented activist and part of the national DREAM Act movement, criticized the mayor in her remarks at the rally yesterday for continuing to support Secure Communities and ICE access to PARS. She talked about how she is tired of seeing her community live in fear of the police and “tired of politicians telling us that they support immigrant rights, but then when we’re not looking, they throw our communities under the bus.” Maybe the mayor didn’t hear Maria’s impassioned speech, because he later agreed to have his picture taken with her. Maybe Mayor Nutter should listen to what members of the community like Maria have to say instead of telling them what he thinks they want to hear.

Peter Pedemonti of the New Sanctuary Movement echoed Maria’s complaints, explaining why the City’s recent decision to exclude ICE access to information in PARS about victims and witnesses is not enough:

The amendment does not address the damage to public safety. As long as the Philadelphia Police Department is connected with ICE, the community will not trust the police, and this harms the safety of us all.

The amendment does not address the violation of people's civil rights, as people are passed to immigration before they get their day in court. And let us remember that ICE's own statistics show that close to 90% of people passed to ICE are for minor violations.

And the amendment does not address racial profiling.

New Sanctuary Movement has been working with other organizations since last year to end Philadelphia law enforcement’s close collaboration with ICE. While District Attorney Seth Williams has simply refused to consider that Philadelphia’s immigrants have any right at all to protection by law enforcement, Mayor Nutter has been trying to have it both ways: tough on immigrants AND a champion of immigrant rights.

Well, Mr. Nutter, Philadelphians are starting to see what’s really going on, and voters are beginning to pay attention to what this is about.

[See Maria’s complete remarks from today’s rally below.]


I am here today because I am tired of seeing my community be fearful of the police. Because I am tired of seeing families separated and students not being able to fulfill their full potential.

And I am here today because I am tired of politicians telling us that they support immigrant rights, but then when we’re not looking, they throw our communities under the bus! Mayor Nutter and Seth Williams, what about the taxi workers raid that resulted in the pending deportation of more than 20 taxi drivers? What about this city’s participation with the Secure Communities program? What about the continued access by ICE to PARS database? What about the deportation of two Peruvians who were victims of a hate crime? One of whom was only three years old when he was brought to this country; this is the only place he knew! We appreciate your support, but your support is not genuine if you continue to be a part of the problem.

I am here today to say that I am undocumented and unafraid!

I was brought to the United States when I was only 13 years old. I have been living in this country for over 10 years. I went to high school, graduating in 2004 with a 3.5 GPA. Through hard work, I was able to continue with my education by attending community college. After 5 years of paying as an international student, out of pocket, I was finally able to graduate with my Associate’s Degree in Political Science and a 3.98 GPA.

I want to continue with my education. I want to go to a four year school. I want to graduate and be able to use my degree to help my community. But I can’t because of my status. In high school, teachers often tell you that you can do everything you set your mind to. But this is not true if you’re an undocumented student. We all know that the system is broken and there is no way for me, or students like me, to legalize our status.

We cannot continue to deny immigrant youth the opportunity to succeed. We cannot continue to deny students the chance to go to college. We need a solution and the DREAM Act is the solution. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented students the opportunity to legalize their status if they go to college or enlist in the military. The DREAM Act is based on hard work, fairness, and education.

I have been working on the DREAM Act for over three years now. I have seen students like me, be denied their basic rights. I have seen students fall into depression because they don’t see a way out. There are students being deported as we speak, because Congress has failed to act. But there has not been a better time for the DREAM Act than now. Undocumented students are standing up for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we’re saying that enough is enough! We need the DREAM Act and we will continue to fight for our right to be equal in the only country we know.

There is a saying in the immigrant youth movement that says “We are undocumented and unafraid.” But this is not just a saying, it is a fact. Undocumented students have overcome their fear of deportation. We have organized from the grassroots level, volunteering our own free time for a cause that personally affects us. We do this because we truly believe in the power of the youth and because our voices need to be heard.

Undocumented students have organized hunger strikes in New York, North Carolina, and California. They have participated in acts of civil disobedience in Arizona, California and we have taken our fight to Washington D.C. On July 20th, less than a week and a half ago, 21 undocumented students were arrested in D.C. after organizing sit-ins at several Senators’ offices, including Senator McCain and Senator Reid, calling on them to pass the DREAM Act this year. These students are putting their lives at risk for the thousands of others who need the DREAM Act to pass.

As we speak, there are students who are on their 9th day of a hunger strike in front of Sen. Feinstein’s office in Los Angeles California. These actions and acts of courage have not gone unnoticed. Last Tuesday, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi met to discuss moving the DREAM Act before the November election. This would not have been possible without the hard work of undocumented students. But we’re going to hold our leaders accountable, to make sure they keep their word and move the DREAM Act forward.

Undocumented students are tired of waiting. And we will not wait any longer. We are telling Congress to stop playing politics with our DREAMs. We are telling them to lose their fear, just like undocumented students have lost theirs. This is the year to pass the DREAM Act and we will not stop until that happens.

We must also remember that while some key parts of SB1070 were stopped, most of the bill has now gone into effect. It is now a crime for a day laborer to solicit work. It is now okay to sue state agencies for not enforcing immigration law. We should celebrate the fact that some major parts of the law were blocked, but we need to continue the fight until ALL of SB1070 is overturned.

Thanks for the well written post

David -

Thanks for the excellent post - Nutter's duplicity on this issue is extremely concerning. Until his actions unequivocally show that he is concerned for the safety and well being of the immigrants in this city, we should continue to question and scrutinize his actions.


thanks for breaking down the PARS issue so well ...

... it is a tough issue for many Philadelphians to understand, whether or not they support immigrant rights.

I fixed the photo ... now it is big enough that you can see the ICE truck in the background, which is funny because the Mayor looks a lot more uncomfortable than Maria.

Dave Bennion

Sorry to spoil ...

... your photographic drama or irony; but that's not an ICE truck. That's Federal Protective Services. They don't do immigration enforcement, they provide security to federal property.

one quibble

the PPA isn't really Nutter's -- it belongs to the state, Republican controlled. obviously, he's choosing to sign these agreements, but the PPA brings plenty of evil to the table even without Nutter's help.

thanks for getting all this stuff in one place though! disheartening.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

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