Why Philly is NOT a Sanctuary City

Photo by Hope in Focus Steve Pavey at the DNC 2017 in Philly

Philadelphia has been seen nationally as one of the cities to emulate as far as policies go in separating police and ICE and we couldn’t be prouder of our communities that led this fight and our allies and elected officials that have stood with us to protect our families. This was a movement to create a change led by those most affected but we must be clear; Philadelphia is NOT and has never been a Sanctuary City.

ICE continues to deport our loved ones by either getting people on the streets or by raiding their homes. Because of data sharing through programs like PARS, ICE still has access to people’s information through the police database and we are still fighting to get many people out of detention. What Philadelphia does do is abide by the fourth amendment in that it requires ICE to produce a warrant signed by a judge if they want the city to hold someone. That.is.it. That alone does not make us a Sanctuary City, it makes us a city that abides by the constitution on this issue.

Because ICE is still allowed to roam our streets we have worked hard to educate our families on their rights and to ensure they are training others to protect themselves. Last year alone our leaders trained over 500 families on their human rights and their rights as it pertains to ICE and police and we will continue to do that as we build out Human Rights Zones across Philadelphia and the state;  neighborhoods committed to protecting all of us.

We are glad that our city took the initial steps to work with us but there is still lots of work to be done if we want to declare Philadelphia a sanctuary city, one not just for immigrants but for black and brown folks, poor people, workers, etc. This would have to include an end to low level policing policies like “Stop and Frisk” and an end to racial profiling and “Broken Window” policing, a commitment to release our loved ones from jail by ending the cash bail system, and doing away with ankle monitors that create prisons for our loved ones in their homes only for private companies to profit off of.  A sanctuary city would ensure that police are out of ours schools and instead focus on getting more funding to our schools and staff that are trained to work with our families and who look like us.

In 2016 we saw the rise of several anti-immigrant bills introduced at the state level, threatening to take funding away from cities that declare themselves sanctuary cities. Well, we are here to say that Philadelphia is NOT a sanctuary city. We must stop saying that we are. Until all of our families are protected from racism and racist policies, we won’t be and the word sanctuary has just become a trigger that sparks the right to move against us, sparked by their own hate and racism. We should only be using the word sanctuary if we are truly offering sanctuary and we are not. For example, Javier and Alma’s family have Javier in actual sanctuary inside of Arch Street Methodist church so ICE cannot get him to deport him but if he leaves he can be deported, because Philadelphia is NOT a sanctuary city.

We anticipate given the elections that we are to expect more anti-immigrant bills in 2017. We need to prepare ourselves for hateful legislation using anti-immigrant sentiment to attack policies that were put in place to protect poor people, workers, LGBTQ folks, women and of course black and brown families. Don’t be fooled and given the climate, we are recommending that all those looking to support immigrant communities…

  1. Stop using the word sanctuary to describe any work with the immigrant community UNLESS you are working to provide true sanctuary for our families from attacks, deportation, detention, etc. There is a long history in Latin America on the sanctuary movement that we think all people can learn from.
  2. We ask that you work with and take leadership from impacted communities at this time to pass policies that create the changes our communities have asked for for a long time.

Let us also clarify at this time that ICE is not in our schools (thank God) and through federal law ICE cannot get access to our student’s information. If ICE ever decided to come into our schools we will reach out to our allies at that time to stand with us and fight back. But what we do have in are schools are school police that we need out of our buildings, we have metal detectors that make our children feel like criminals, we have children being locked up with their mothers in Berks Family Detention Center who are seeking asylum. We also don’t have enough counselors to help our children get into high schools or colleges, we have teachers and staff who are not properly trained to support immigrant youth and their families who may be struggling with the deportation or detention of a loved one, we have overcrowded classrooms, schools that don’t allow our parents to volunteer because they are undocumented and very limited support on language access in our schools for our parents.

In our streets we are beginning to feel the affects of a Trump administration as some police officers have felt emboldened to more aggressively racially profile our families; denying translation services to those that need it, making stops and detaining people with little to no reason and threatening people with arrest if they stand up for themselves.  It comes as no surprise that some of these officers would behave this way given that their own union, the Fraternal Order of Police, endorsed Trump for president; a man who ran his campaign on anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-black policies.

The issues we are about to face are immense but let’s fight together with leaders from our community and for changes our families need and have been asking for, for a long time. Let’s make sure those who are in contact with our families are adequately trained on how to support them from deportations, from trauma and in how to access better educational opportunities.  Let’s work with other communities to put an end to “broken window” policing and policies like “Stop and Frisk.”

We respectfully ask that you stop using the word Sanctuary at this time; it is an inaccurate description of our city. Let us instead work together to build the kind of city we all want to live in, one that respect all of our HUMAN RIGHTS, regardless of race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc.