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.

Juntos

Nutter, We Said it Before and We’ll Say it Again, No Police/ICE Collaboration

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Nutter, We Said it Before and We’ll Say it Again, No Police/ICE Collaboration

On Friday, December 11th Mayor Nutter’s administration released their proposed changes to the city’s ICE hold executive order, a historic win in separating the Poli-Migra.

The immigrant community, immigrant rights organizations and advocates have been clear for weeks that any city collaboration with ICE is unacceptable. We must stand against any use of city resources that will lead to the deportation of our community.

Read the Philadelphia Family Unity Network’s full response below.

En solidaridad,
Juntos

 

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Hon. Mayor Michael Nutter

Room 215

City Hall

Philadelphia PA 19107

 

Dear Mayor Nutter,

We are writing in response to the draft Executive Order provided to us by your administration which would rescind and replace Executive Order No. 1-14 (“Policy Regarding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Detainer requests”). Our concerns are not swayed by our review of this draft. We urge you again not to make any changes to your position on this issue, and to let the original order stand, in response to the unanimous call to do so.

We understand from our meeting with Deputy Mayor Gillison that your administration anticipates the number of individuals who would be subjected to this revised policy to be relatively small, and that your position is that communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in these situations will contribute to public safety. However, this reasoning ignores the experiences of thousands of Philadelphia families that have been ripped apart by the deportation machine and made to feel unsafe and unstable in their own homes and communities because of the activities of ICE.

If your administration believes that the criminal legal system in Philadelphia is capable of adjudicating criminal matters, we see no reason why Philadelphia should participate in the practice of singling out certain individuals for additional punishment with permanent consequences simply due to their immigration status. This change in your policy also contradicts your position on the value of reentry and rehabilitation for returning citizens and instead forces these individuals to be permanently exiled from their families and communities. We know you value re-entry and second chances as illustrated by your signing of a comprehensive Ban the Box policy just yesterday at City Hall. With this in mind, we strongly oppose any revision to the existing order that allows city employees to report Philadelphia residents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, full stop.

The additional provisions in this order do not allay our concerns for several reasons. While we appreciate the intention behind the creation of an advisory board, we disagree that the goal of any advisory committee on this issue should be to promote dialogue with federal immigration officials. As we have explained in detail through our previous communication, outreach materials, press conferences and in numerous meetings with your administration and previous Mayors over the past decade, the Department of Homeland Security has traumatized Philadelphia’s immigrant communities through brutal, racist practices that have destroyed families and disrupted community stability with impunity. If your office would like to create an avenue for community input on issues related to law enforcement in immigrant communities, we suggest that you start by convening community forums to solicit input on city policies related to immigration from those directly affected by those policies.

We know from experience that local efforts to address abuse at the hands of ICE will be fruitless without accountability at the federal level. This lack of accountability is a core piece of why we believe that any local participation in the deportation system should be prohibited. With regard to your request for DHS to create a hotline to accept complaints, we are unclear as to why community members would report abuse at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security to the agency which is committing the abuse. DHS currently operates several avenues where problems may be reported, none of which are effective in actually addressing concerns. Public relations efforts, such as the “public advocate” position previously created by ICE, are not effective in facilitating dialogue for the reasons described above. We do of course applaud the request for data, as ICE has been notoriously reluctant to provide information on its activities, however we don’t see why you could not obtain this information through other channels that would not require a revision of the existing Executive Order.

In accordance with the concerns raised above and in direct response to the needs and experiences of the communities we serve, if your administration insists on replacing the previous Executive Order, we call on your administration to make the following changes in place of your proposal:

  1. Enhance community safety and trust in city agencies by prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security from using city property and resources, including physical space in police districts and prisons, to interrogate Philadelphia residents and enforce civil immigration laws;
  2. Conserve city resources by prohibiting city employees, including police and prison staff, from communicating with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate the deportation of Philadelphia residents.

Sincerely,
The Philadelphia Family Unity Network

 

The Philadelphia Family United Network members include 1Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.

Mayor Nutter Prioritizes Politics Over Immigrant Communities

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Mayor Nutter with Juntos member Maria Elena Cardenas in City Hall, a mother of two who had just lost her husband Pablo to a deportation just days before.

Mayor Nutter Prioritizes Politics Over Immigrant Communities

November 20th, 2015 will mark the one year anniversary of Obama’s announcement on immigration in which he created Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens (DAPA). Despite the promise of relief from deportations for millions of families, the attack on immigrants continues. This last year has brought not only disappointment and continued deportations, but hate mongering from Presidential hopefuls that inspired anti-immigrant bills in Congress and in Harrisburg. In Pennsylvania, we have also seen the prolonged, unjust and inhumane detention of families in the Berks Family Detention Center where infants have been detained as young as 11 days old with an unlawful license and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to terrorize our communities in Philadelphia and across the state.

On Thursday, November 12th, the Nutter Administration held a closed door meeting with Philadelphia immigrant rights organizations, including the Philadelphia Family Unity Network, in regards to the City’s collaboration with ICE. The Administration announced that it intends to roll back the historic Executive Order limiting City interactions with ICE, passed on April 2014, by introducing provisions that re-establish these communications.

Members of the immigrant community, the Philadelphia Family Unity Network, the Shut Down Berks Coalition and allies will be holding a press conference Monday, November 16th at 11am at City Hall to address this latest development as well as the state and national anti-immigrant attacks.

We are heartbroken that the Nutter Administration wants to reverse this groundbreaking policy and once again use local law enforcement as an arm of the federal deportation system. The proposed changes will increase the number of deportations of Philadelphia residents and will erode the trust building begun between immigrant communities and local law enforcement since the Executive Order was signed and implemented. What community members will hear is that the administration has gone back on their word and that local law enforcement will once again serve as immigration agents. These proposed provisions also contradict our City’s values of honoring the dignity of each individual, redemption, second chances, and the ability of human beings to change, by subjecting Philadelphia residents to double punishment by deporting them after they have served their time. Mayor Nutter must listen to immigrant communities, advocates, and allies, and stand strong in his support for a policy that has made our communities safer.

Only seven months ago, Nutter stood with community in City Hall, and after listening to the story of Maria Elena Cardenas, a mother of two who had just lost her husband Pablo to a deportation just days before, said, “I can’t imagine that a real elected official, someone who really believes in public service, would think that it was good policy to rip a family apart. Somehow, some way, at least to me, that appears to be completely in contradiction to this great country that we all love called the United States of America. We still have work to do.”

A month later the city made it clear it had no intention of resuming cooperation with ICE requests. In an interview with the LA Times, City Managing Director Richard Negrin said, “The broader Latino community loses confidence when they see us treating new Philadelphians that way, I think it makes us less safe (to cooperate with ICE), to be honest.”

We need public officials at the local, state and national level that will take a stand against hate toward immigrants and towards people of color. We must stand together to stop the criminalization, detention and deportation of our communities.

The Philadelphia Family United Network members include 1Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.
The Shut Down Berks Campaign is a grassroots coalition fighting to shut down the Berks County Detention Center immediately and end family detention. Members include Detention Watch Network, GALAEI, Juntos, #Not1More, Migrant Power Movement, PICC, UUPlan and We Belong Together.

Philadelphia Stands United, Rejects Hate Mongering That Results In Broken Families

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Community Based Healing not Unconstitutional Rollbacks

By the Philadelphia Family Unity Network

The recent killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by Francisco Sanchez is a terrible and senseless tragedy. The pain her family must be experiencing is unimaginable, and they should be afforded the respect and decency of mourning in their own chosen way.

As a coalition of organizations with over a decade of experience working with survivors of violence, we had no intention of inserting our voices into such a heartbreaking and private moment. After repeated requests from the press and local politicians who have been misinformed by those who choose to exploit this moment for political gain, we felt the need to briefly address some misconceptions.

The Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) is a coalition that worked with the Mayor’s administration and local advocates to successfully end all Philadelphia Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds in April 2014. We are immigrant community leaders and young people, documented and undocumented, allies, grassroots immigrant organizations, advocates for the needs of victims and witnesses to crimes, people of faith, leaders focused on the intersection between incarceration and deportation, and policy advocates.

We hold a community-based vision of safety, healing, and justice. We are called by a shared belief that our community’s healing comes from addressing root causes of violence, that we need to end the criminalization of our communities and that all people, regardless of immigration status or criminal conviction should remain with their chosen communities. While we hold people accountable to their actions and crimes, we recognize that violence stems from trauma, from poverty caused by devastating economic policies, war, forced migration, systematically segregated and underfunded communities and racist immigration policies and a criminal justice system that separates and destroy families and communities.

Secure Communities and the ICE holds program are failed policies. ICE holds have been repeatedly found to be unconstitutional, and to be a driving force behind the breakdown in trust between immigrant residents and local government. Communities organized to fight these policies across the country, and they succeeded. To go back and repeat these destructive policies only opens up possibilities for more abuses against our communities while avoiding the deeper causes of violence, as well as leaving our city vulnerable to lawsuits for violations of people’s rights. We need policies that reflect our values as a society, that honor our community’s dignity, that respects the diversity of our lives and are grounded in the belief of redemption.

 

The tragedy of Kathryn Steinle’s death should not be manipulated by those who see this as an opportunity to push a political agenda. Creating safer communities is a goal shared across the divisions some seek to exploit. PFUN will continue to push for meaningful reform and dialogue toward this end.

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The Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) is a grassroots coalition that ended all ICE holds in Philadelphia in April 2014. PFUN is 1 Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.