Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Philadelphia Mayor Revises ICE Policy

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

The revised policy is supposed to apply only to violent felons. (ICE/ Wikimedia Commons)
The revised policy is supposed to apply only to violent felons. (ICE/ Wikimedia Commons)
PHILADELPHIA - With just two weeks left in office, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Tuesday signed an executive order that advocates say threatens immigrants held in city jails with deportation.

The policy means the city will inform federal immigration officials when immigrants with criminal records or deemed to be a threat will be released. According to Nicole Kligerman, community organizer of the New Sanctuary Movement, ICE agents will then meet the immigrants as they exit the jail.

"This rolls back the historic policy that he signed in April 2014 that put Philadelphia on the cutting edge of the immigrants' rights movement, and is really a stab in the back to immigrants and their supporters in our city," says Kligerman.

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has said he will reinstate the city's noncooperation policy when he takes office on Jan. 4.

The revised policy is supposed to apply only to those convicted of violent felonies or suspected of terrorism. But in the past, many immigrants have been separated from their families and deported over old, relatively minor convictions.

Other municipalities have declared themselves "sanctuary cities" and refused to cooperate with immigration authorities. Kligerman says this reversal in Philadelphia may play into the growing anti-immigrant climate in U.S. politics.

"This move by Mayor Nutter sends a very troubling message to other cities and towns in Pennsylvania and across the country who have been looking to Philadelphia for its leadership," says Kligerman.

The policy change was first announced in early November. Kligerman credits advocates with delaying the change, and preventing deportations, for six weeks.

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