Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Michael Nutter is preparing to sign an order pulling back on an agreement to let undocumented immigrants who are arrested in the city be detained by federal agents.
Still, immigration advocates say it doesn't go far enough.
Nutter’s expected action on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, would end the detention practice except in cases where the crimes committed were violent felonies.
Nicole Kligerman, a spokeswoman for the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, says any level of the practice is too much.
"ICE holds are non-mandatory requests from federal deportation agents to local law enforcement to hold people in local law-enforcement custody who would otherwise be released, and this is exclusively because of their immigration status," she points out.
The ICE agreement in Philadelphia began six years ago, giving federal agents access to local arrest records.
By law, even immigrants here legally on green cards can be deported if they are found guilty of a felony.
Opponents say it penalizes immigrants in instances where they would otherwise be free on bail.
Kligerman says the arrangement also boils down to Philadelphia taxpayers subsidizing federal deportation programs.
"Budgetary issues are moral issues and the city of Philadelphia has decided that deportation is an essential service, while cutting other actual essential services to Philadelphians," she stresses.
Advocacy groups such as New Sanctuary also say they want more input on decisions like this that have such wide-ranging impact on the immigrant community.