Monday, November 23, 2015

Groups Tell Philly Mayor No Changes to ICE Hold Policy

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

Groups opposed to changes in Philadelphia's anti-deportation policy rallied at City Hall on Friday. Courtesy New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
Groups opposed to changes in Philadelphia's anti-deportation policy rallied at City Hall on Friday. Courtesy New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA - Community groups and immigration advocates are telling Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to keep his hands off the city's anti-deportation ICE Hold policy.

The mayor says he wants to change the executive order that controls city cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Nicole Kligerman of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia says more than 75 groups signed a letter telling the mayor to leave that policy intact.

"The changes in the policy would mean that police and cities and jails would notify federal immigration officials about who was coming out of our local jails so that immigration could be waiting to deport them," says Kligerman.

The mayor's office says the changes would only apply to immigrants wanted for specific, violent crimes, drug trafficking or terrorism, and would still require a warrant.

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has said he will immediately reverse any changes to the ICE Hold policy when he takes office in a few weeks. Kligerman thinks that calls the whole reason for making changes at all into question.

"This is an eleventh-hour political move that will only be in play for a couple of weeks, and we really believe that this is much more about Mayor Nutter's next job than about sound policy," she says.

Advocates say the changes contradict positive efforts Nutter has made on behalf of the city's immigrant community, including signing the executive order that created the ICE Hold policy.

In light of recent events, Kligerman says citing fears of terrorism as justification for the changes sends a disturbing message.

"That is playing into the anti-Syrian refugee language that's extremely harmful not just for this issue but other immigrant and refugee issues," she says.

On Friday, groups critical of the changes hand delivered their letter of opposition to Philadelphia's City Hall.

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