City of Philadelphia denies zoning appeal for proposed juvenile immigrant detention center operated by Visionquest in North Philadelphia
The city of Philadelphia has once again proved that it is truly a welcoming city for its immigrant community. This afternoon the city’s zoning board denied an appeal by the Arizona based agency, Visionquest for their proposed juvenile immigrant detention center in the Logan section of the city. While this is a great step forward, we at Juntos commit to staying vigilant on this issue and will continue to fight back against this and any other form of detention in our communities.
Juntos, along with other community based groups, testified at a community town-hall organized by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker on the evening of March 29th. During this townhall it was very clear that Visionquest had one thing on their mind when it came to operating this detention center: profit.
Visionquest vehemently dismissed any and all attempts at accountability by community members. When they were questioned about previous documented cases of abuse of minors at their facilities they simply dismissed them as past events. They then proceeded to argue that by opening this detention center in one of the most underserved areas of the city that it would “revitalize” the neighborhood as well as “create jobs” for the community.The idea of revitalizing the neighborhood based on the further incarceration of communities of color was immediately rejected by community members in attendance.
An agency that clearly puts profit over people and takes no responsibility over abuse happening within their walls cannot be trusted to operate a detention center in our city.
“While Visionquest claims that these children are unaccompanied minors with no familial connections in the United States, there have been various cases just in the past few months alone of families unable to reunite with their children because of the parents’ immigration status. I have been witness to the pain and hardship that parents and guardians have experienced having their children not only separated from them, but detained far from any family members. Rather than continuing the detainment of black and brown communities, especially migrant children, we should be investing in community-led alternatives to detention.” Said Nicole Bañales, Community Case Manager of Juntos
The denial of the zoning permit is a powerful step towards protecting the lives and the sanctity of immigrant families in Philadelphia. Juntos looks forward to working alongside the community to fight for the rights and protection of not only of the immigrant community, but all marginalized communities as well.
The city of Philadelphia has taken a historic step today by launching its Municipal ID Program for all residents of the city. This government issued ID will be made available to all Philadelphia residents and is a huge victory for Philadelphia’s Immigrant community. For the first time, many of our city’s most marginalized communities will have a government issued ID to be able to identify themselves when going about their lives in our city.
Juntos, along with other community based groups, have been working for years with then Councilman Jim Kenney along with Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez to not only get this program up and running but to ensure that it was accessible, secure and most of all available for ALL residents of our city.
For our undocumented community, this is a huge step in the fight against deportation as the lack of a government issued ID is often times the first way people get funnelled into the deportation machine. It’s important to recognize that this is not solely a form of identification for undocumented immigrants though, but for many other communities that may lack access to a form of identification such as returning citizens, people experiencing homelessness and the LGBTQ community.
This victory would not have been possible had it not be for the labor, organizing, and advocacy being done by community members who have been directly impacted by the lack of identification for years.
“Today Philly has shown once again it is not afraid to do what is right for our communities. The start of the city’s municipal ID program is a huge victory for many in our city. The mere act of having a government issued ID means that for the first time many of Philadelphia’s marginalized communities are being officially recognized by our city. From undocumented immigrant, to returning citizens as well as members of the LGBTQ community, this is a huge victory and a step forward to further integrate into the fabric of our city.” Said Miguel Andrade, Communications Manager of Juntos
The municipal ID program is a powerful step towards protecting the lives and the sanctity of immigrant families in Philadelphia. Juntos looks forward to working with the city to continue fighting for the rights and protection of not only of the immigrant community, but all marginalized communities as well.
As the attacks against our community continue, it is our duty to fight back and protect the rights of our people. This is why we are excited to announce we are hiring and looking for people to join the Juntos team. If you or someone you know is passionate about fighting for the rights of the immigrant community, then we might just have a spot for you.
For more information on how to apply, the responsibilities, qualifications, and the benefits to these potential positions click on the links below.
Operation “Safe City”: A federal retaliation against cities and communities who refuse to cooperate with a white supremacist administration
On September 12, 2017 Juntos along with over 30 local organizations and nine individuals including City Councilwomen Maria Quiñones-Sanchez and Helen Gym and Juntos executive director Erika Almiron filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Philadelphia field office in response to reports that a massive nationwide raid known internally as Operation Mega would be unleashed upon immigrant communities with a goal of detaining over 8,000 individuals before the end of ICE’s fiscal year on September 30th. Not long after, ICE publicly announced that they would be postponing Operation Mega with no indication of when and proceeded to deny the FOIA request at the Philadelphia field office.
This lack of transparency to the public demonstrates that any sense of security from ICE should not be trusted. Just eleven days after submitting the FOIA request, ICE once again proved they are a rogue agency by launching “Operation Safe City”, a massive raid operation targeting “Sanctuary Cities” like Philadelphia. Operation Safe City can only be described as a deliberate retaliation against cities and communities who refuse to cooperate with a racist, xenophobic and white supremacist administration in violating people’s rights. Philadelphia felt the brunt of this retaliation by having the largest number of people disappeared in the country, with 107 people picked up in four days, more than any other ICE office in the country.
The irony of this operation being dubbed “Safe City” does not go unnoticed by the victims of the raids. One local family reported that ICE raided their home wielding guns in front of several children, interrogating one of their daughters without parental consent and proceeded to fingerprint everyone in the household. Some who were handcuffed and removed were described as “collateral damage,” meaning they had no reason to be detained other than being immigrants and are the victims of an agency and political climate that terrorizes and tears apart families with Gestapo style tactics in the name of public safety.
Erika Almiron, Executive Director of Juntos, said “Public safety is about all of us being safe from the hands of Trump’s criminalization machine and cannot be defined by ICE agents who knock down the doors of our homes with guns and drag people out in front of their children. This is why we need to Expand Sanctuary in cities like Philadelphia and in our state to protect our families from this new age Gestapo using immigration as a way to do ethnic cleansing. We must push for policies inside our systems that decriminalize people who are just trying to survive and ensure that our legal system and police don’t collude with ICE, which only makes everyone in our city less safe.”