Is Philadelphia the next city to end ICE Holds?

PFUN Members celebrating the historic City Council Hearings

On March 12, 2014 the city of Philadelphia, for the first time ever in it’s history, held public City Council hearings on the issue of local police collaborating with federal immigration agents and the use of ICE Holds. It was an empowering day when our community marched from South Philadelphia all the way to Center City and slowly filled City Council Chambers and began speaking out against this unjust system in place in our city. These historic hearings come after months of hard work from our coalition partners and also as a result of the many years of hard work on behalf of many different organizations in the city of Philadelphia. We should all be extremely proud of the great work we are all doing for immigrant communities in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.

Juntos, and the rest of the Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) members (1Love MovementNew Sanctuary Movement of PhiladelphiaPennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship CoalitionVictim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia) are extremely proud of our city officials for taking a stand against the unjust use of ICE Holds in our city and the separation of families through deportations. We look forward to working with the city of Philadelphia as the policy is officially drafted to ensure that our community’s voices and concerns are addressed. We also want to personally want to thank all the amazing organizations who have been lending their support in this important fight for immigrant rights in Philadelphia.

Thank you; AFRICOM, ACANA, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Newark, Asian Americans United, Boat People SOS Delaware Valley, Concilio, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Council on American Islamic Relations, Coalition of Labor Union Women, FAVOR International, Fight for Drivers Licenses, HIAS Pennsylvania, Media Mobilizing Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), The Philadelphia Student Union, Women Organized Against Rape and other organizations across the city.

To read the testimonies of all the Juntos members please see the links below

Cristobal Valencia        Adan Tlatlenco        Karla Rojas

Juana Aparicio        Maria Serna        Erika Almiron

To read all the amazing testimonies that were presented that day please
go to PICC’s website here.

For some amazing press coverage check out these pieces by NBC 10 and AL Dia News as well as the video embeded below of Councilmen James Kenney and Curtin Jones Jr. as they respond to anti-immigrant testifiers at the hearing.

Also check out our press archive for much more press coverage.

Historic milestone in Norristown for Immigrant Community

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It was a historic day in Norristown, PA this past Sunday (Jan. 5th). The Norristown Juntos committee held a town hall hosting Police Chief Talbot to listen to the experiences of the Latino immigrant community in regards to their history and experience with local police.

One of the main issues discussed at the event were immigration holds. A civil immigration detainer, also known as an immigration hold, is a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local law enforcement officials. It asks local officials to detain an individual in their custody for 48 hours longer than they otherwise would, to facilitate transfer to ICE. Juntos leaders have analyzed and identified this practice as a key factor in the growing sense of fear and mistrust towards local police on behalf of immigrant communities.

Certain cities, counties and states have taken steps to rebuild trust between local police and the community by passing policy addressing immigration holds. They include Santa Clara County, California, Cook County, Illinois, Miami Dade, Florida as well as Newark, NJ which refuses to honor any detention holds regardless. It appears Norristown might be added to the growing list of municipalities doing this as well.

After a presentation from Juntos Norristown leaders on the significance of ICE holds, Chief Talbot commented and said to the crowd, “I will make myself available any day this week to sit down with representatives of your organization to draft a policy that ends the immigration holds… the Norristown police department is not going to fight against you any more we will fight with you.”

Juntos leaders of Norristown were thrilled to hear the warm response. “We’re going in the right direction to work with the authorities and for them to treat us with dignity,” said Juntos leader Gelacio Vasquez.

VICTORY: ICE Shut down in Philadelphia

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Yesterday, on the Eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, many brave and courageous leaders of Juntos, along with many of our supporters, used their bodies to block ICE deportation vehicles at the downtown Philadelphia ICE headquarters, just as they prepared to transfer immigrant detainees. Our heroes were prepared to risk arrest because they are tired of President Obama’s dragent programs, like “Secure Communities,” or “S-COMM,” as well as the negative impacts Immigration (ICE) Holds, one of the ways police & ICE collaborate under S-COMM, have on our community.

Despite efforts to intimidate Juntos leaders with federal arrests, we stayed strong, held our ground and ICE, the Department of Homeland Security and local Police in the end had to disperse. Yesterday we learned that an organized community is a strong community. Now is the time for President Obama to stop the deportations that tear apart our community and our families and if he won’t stop the deportations, we will.

This is just the beginning. Juntos and others from across the nation will continue to fight back against unjust deportations until Obama listens. And here in Philadelphia we will also work to ensure that local leaders respond to our communities demands of ending local collaboration between police and ICE. We look forward to participating in the upcoming City Council hearings to address this and also look forward to developing solutions, like ending ALL ICE Holds in the city of Philadelphia.

We at Juntos would like to also thank every person who braved the cold yesterday for hours to stand with us as we demanded better for our community. Thank you to everyone who supported us; supporters, allies, artists, students, and most importantly, thank you to the brave individuals who stood up to ICE. We believe your message was heard across the nation; NOT ONE MORE DEPORTATION!

To read more about the event yesterday, see below for press coverage.

Univisión 65: Manifestación
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Protesters gather outside Phila. immigration office
The Daily News: Immigrant-rights advocates block ICE vehicle exits
Al Dia Newspaper: Piden a la Virgen detener deportaciones
NBC 10: Protestors Block Transfer of Immigrant Detainees
NBC 10: Family’s Deportation Experience
CBS3: Protesters Disrupt Traffic Outside ICE Building In Center City
6ABC: Protestors block ICE building in Spring Garden

Our Right to be Here: Deportations and Identifications

License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown

License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown

Every year Juntos supports over 300 families through moments of crisis, including deportations.  Not having a valid local identification or a driver’s license, when encountering local police at a traffic stop or in the community, is where many of our deportation cases begin.  In the almost twelve years since the founding of Juntos our community has fought back against thousands of deportations in the state of Pennsylvania that have broken apart our families and have left many young people without one or both parents to support them. That is why Juntos community leaders have identified deportations as the number one issue to address and ultimately build power to ensure the end of policies and practices that separate our families.

Just this past year, through the dedicated involvement of Juntos leaders, we were able to secure a huge victory in Norristown, PA to end the practice of local police working with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at traffic checkpoints for driver’s licenses.  It was here that the intersections of deportations and identification were made glaringly apparent when we heard story after story of families torn apart because a family member was pulled over and, because of not having a driver’s license, then entered into deportation proceedings.  We have also had similar instances in Philadelphia of individuals who entered into deportation proceedings because on traffic stops or accidents.  Many times we have been witness to deportations starting because of interaction with local police and lack of identification.  There have been numerous cases of individuals who have been booked into custody for either having no ID or for showing their country of origin’s ID, which leads to questions pertaining to immigration status, even though the city of Philadelphia has a directive for police to not ask these questions.

That is why in Juntos we see the issue of addressing lack of local identification and driver’s licenses directly connected to the work we do to stop deportations just as much as we see the need for immigration reform policies that prioritizes ending the deportation machine and the ending of policies like Secure Communities and the voluntary practice of ICE holds that decimate our communities’ right to due process.

Several years ago, when thousands of immigrant Pennsylvanians were illegally stripped of their legally obtained driver’s licenses by Penndot, Juntos was there with the leaders who fought back.  Six of these brave individuals made it to the PA Supreme Court and fought back in a landmark case to keep their licenses; and won. Just this year state legislation was introduced, due to the diligent work of hundreds of leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania (from Philadelphia, Norristown, Easton, and Allentown to name a few) to pass an unmarked driver’s license in Pennsylvania.  Many other states have already passed similar legislation targeted at building trust between immigrant communities and different municipalities.  At the same time, a Municipal ID Bill was introduced in the city of Philadelphia that, if passed, will help thousands of Philadelphians, including young people, the elderly and immigrants, to access necessary & vital resources.

For all of these reasons, we stand in solidarity with all of the leaders who see the need to fight for our human right to remain with our families and our right to be here, in the place we call home. Juntos will continue to fight, just as we encourage all of our community to do so, on issues that our community deems as vital and important and to ending deportations by addressing the root causes of our struggle so we may live the lives we are all meant to live; dignified ones.