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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Philadelphia Inquirer - Philadelphia to bar immigration agents from arrest data

Philadelphia to bar immigration agents from arrest data

Philadelphia is expected to end the arrangement that permits federal immigration agents to scrutinize the city's computerized list of arrests, including country of origin and other data, Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety, said Sunday.

Immigrant advocates say the year-old agreement between the city and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, known as ICE, has resulted in deportation proceedings against immigrants arrested on even minor charges. Under the agreement, ICE agents can routinely access the city's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS). That agreement is up for renewal on Thursday.

"It is the mayor's view that the PARS agreement should not be extended," Gillison said, speaking at a South Philadelphia church meeting attended by more than 300 immigrants and their supporters.

He said there would be a formal announcement of the city's position in the coming week, probably on Friday.

Mayor Nutter has expressed concern about the human rights of all immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

In a directive he issued a year ago, he barred municipal employees on official business from inquiring about the immigration status of any person, including, but not limited to, victims, witnesses, arrestees, and detainees.

Gillison said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams "agree with the mayor" that the ICE-PARS arrangement should be terminated.

His announcement, which followed an hour of public testimony from immigrants about their fears and mistrust of the police, drew chants of Si, se puede! - Yes, we can! - from a mostly Latino audience that also included members of the city's Asian communities and a contingent of suburban supporters from the Central Baptist Church of Wayne.

Organized by a coalition of proimmigrant groups, including Juntos and the New Sanctuary Movement, the standing-room-only meeting took place in the basement of Annunciation Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary on South 10th Street. It was conducted mostly in Spanish, with electronic headsets available to permit simultaneous translation into English.

In addition to Gillison, officials in attendance included City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez; Police Capt. Michael Weaver, commander of the immigrant-rich Third District in South Philadelphia; and Leslie Davila, assistant director of Victims' Services, who represented the District Attorney's Office but who left before the end of the meeting without addressing the group.

Because Williams did not attend, someone had filled the seat reserved for him with a large cardboard cutout of the district attorney's face.

"This is about human rights. It's about civil rights," Sánchez said. "And I am very, very encouraged by [the administration's] movement around PARS."

Some of the speakers who provided testimony about their encounters with police used their real names. Others used pseudonyms. They spoke from a lectern decorated with a poster that said, "Public Safety Now."

One man, who gave his name as Ignacio Aguirre, described the arrest of his son. He said the boy had been at the beach, where he used a knife to cut a watermelon. He put the knife into a backpack. Several days later, without thinking about it, he took the backpack to school and tripped a metal detector. It was an innocent mistake, the man said, but it resulted in a visit from ICE and house arrest with an ankle bracelet for his child.

He did not elaborate on the status of the case but said, "Now I'm afraid to call the police for anything."

Guadalupe Hernandez said she came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 to escape domestic abuse. She said her 16-year-old son was arrested in Philadelphia in 2007 while trying to stop a drunk friend from slashing car tires on Dickinson Street.

"My son tried to take the knife away," she said, but when police arrived, he found himself arrested "as an accomplice."

Although the boy eventually was exonerated, she said, "ICE wants to deport him."

Mark Medvesky, a spokesman for ICE in Philadelphia, said he could not comment in detail about the city's intentions regarding PARS until it took formal action.

But he did say, "Our priority is convicted criminal aliens, getting dangerous people off the street. That's one of the reasons we wanted access to PARS."

For full article and video clip visit

WHYY - Philadelphia may stop sending arrest info to ICE

Philadelphia may stop sending arrest info to ICE

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By: Susan Phillips

Philadelphia's immigrant community wants the city to end a program that gives federal immigration authorities information about arrested people. City officials will be voting on whether to renew the policy later this week.

Immigrant advocates say the year-long practice of handing over information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents breeds fear of the police. Currently, the information on a person's immigration status is transferred electronically at booking, regardless of whether the person is later brought to trial or found guilty.

Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison says the practice has intimidated victims and witnesses from immigrant communities, preventing them from reporting crimes.

"The Mayor's very worried about the fact that there seems to be a chilling effect. And the people in the community feel the police are using this and using this particular access to support immigration checks."

Gillison says he'd rather rely on the same information being channelled to immigration authorities through the state after a person has been convicted of a crime.

But the Mayor is only one of four votes. District Attorney Seth Williams says he hasn't made up his mind. The remaining votes come from the Municipal Court and the police department.

For original article, visit WHYY's blog

Philadelphia Weekly - Immigrant Groups Call for End of Police Cooperation with ICE

Immigrant Groups Call For End of Police Cooperation with ICE

June 28, 2010 by Aaron Kase

Mexico played Argentina in the World Cup elimination round yesterday, but many Philadelphia residents native to Mexico had more important things on their mind. More than 300 people, including a large number of Mexican immigrants, attended a public forum on immigrant rights yesterday afternoon, organized by the New Sanctuary Movement and other advocacy groups at the Annunciation B.V.M. Catholic Church in South Philadelphia.

The groups are asking for an end to collaboration between the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The meeting was conducted mostly in Spanish, with translation offered in English and Indonesian. Speakers took the stage to recount stories of friends and family delivered to immigration officials by the police, from immigrants who were stopped while driving, those who were questioned as witnesses to other crimes and a child who was arrested at school.

The conclusion of all speakers was that they no longer trust the PPD and are not comfortable approaching the police under any circumstances, even if witness or victim to a crime.

The PPD and ICE officially collaborate in two ways: The police give ICE access to the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS), which lists the nationality of people in police custody. Furthermore, the federal Secure Communities program provides ICE finger-prints of anyone arrested by the police.

There have also been allegations of joint sting operations between ICE and the police, although these were not addressed at the meeting. Last November Mayor Nutter issued executive order 8-09 barring police and other city officials from asking anyone’s immigration status except in cases required by law.

The centerpiece of yesterday’s forum was a giant petition in Spanish and English calling for an end to police and ICE collaboration. In order to foster better relations with the police, the petition requested four changes:

  • The city should not renew its agreement with ICE that grants the feds access to the PARS database.
  • The city should reject the “Secure Communities” initiative.
  • All city employers should sign the mayor’s directive 8-09.
  • Directive 8-09 should be increased in scope to bar city employees from contacting ICE.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison and other city officials were in attendance, while District Attorney Seth Williams was invited, but did not show up. Instead, there was a blown-up cardboard cutout of the DA’s already considerably sized noggin.

The crowd chanted for Gillison to sign the petition in a space provided for him, but he declined, saying he was not permitted because the city was not in agreement on all points.

However, Gillison did say it was the mayor and other officials’ view that the PARS agreement should not be extended and they expect to make an official announcement shortly.
“The city’s view is that the police do not do federal immigration work. It is not their job to do. Period,” Gillison said.

However, he pointed out that the Secure Communities program is a federal mandate. The police are required by law to supply information to the state, which in turn has to deliver it to federal immigration officials.

“The bottom line is it’s a national issue we have to address,” said Gillison, recommending that the groups agitate President Obama and Congress on the issue.

“It is fear that kills, it is fear that makes us cowards,” Gillison said, telling the communities that they must not be afraid to engage with the police despite their negative interactions in the past. He mentioned that the only way for the city to find and reprimand officers who violate directive 8-09 is if the community reports them.

Seventh District Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez attended the forum and promised to continue pressing the city on immigrant rights. “We don’t want anybody to live in fear,” she said.

South Philadelphia’s Third Police District Captain Michael Weaver also spoke briefly, pledging to meet with community leadership to improve public safety.

By the time the meeting let out, Mexico had lost to Argentina 3-1, but disappointed expatriates could take some comfort in what they view as positive movement from the mayor’s office to end the PARS agreement.

For original article, visit Philadelphia Weekly's blog

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Return to El Salvador' Philly/ Festival Premiere

Date: Thursday, June 24, 2010
Time: 8:00pm - 9:30pm
Location: The Ritz East: 125 South 2nd Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival presents the Philadelphia and Festival premiere of 'Return to El Salvador', narrated by Martin Sheen and directed by local film maker Jamie Moffett this Thursday, June 24th 8pm at the Ritz East. Q&A after the film with the director, producers and featured interviewees.
Join us for the after party at The RUBA Club: 414 Green Street

Tickets $10 at the door or online:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Volunteer to help at Community Forum on June 27th

As allies, friends, and neighbors,  we have been asked to support the Community Forum (see details in previous post) by showing up for the event -- and also by providing volunteer support for several specific task.  Can you and members of your faith community help?

Here are the needs that have been identified:

Saturday 6/26 -- 10 to 15 volunteers for set up crew at Annunciation (probably early afternoon -- exact time TBA)

   * arrange tables and chairs in the meeting space
   * hang up large banners for the platform
   * make signs to place outside the building on Sunday
   * tape together all the pages of the petitions to display at the forum

Sunday 6/27 -- multiple volunteers designated with "official" name tags (need to come early at 1:00pm for the 2pm start)

   * Greeters outside the building to welcome people arriving -- 4 volunteers
   * Sign-in table at entrance -- 5 volunteers
   * Ushers to help manage seating (and set up extra chairs as needed) -- 5 volunteers
   * Helpers for the water station -- 2 volunteers
   * Childcare helpers -- 4 volunteers
   * Clean up crew after the forum -- 10 volunteers

We hope our New Sanctuary allies will be able to help in these concrete ways!  If your community can provide volunteers, please send a reply to and we will be in touch to work out details.

Call to Action!

Community Forum to Stop Police/ ICE
Collaboration in Philadelphia!

Sunday June 27th, 2:00 pm at
Annunciation B.V.M. Church
on the corner of 10th and Dickinson

Join us, as community leaders from North and South Philadelphia share personal testimony about how Police/ ICE collaboration are impacting hard working families and compromising the safety of our city. Our goal is to have 400 supporters at this event. Come out and show your support.

For more information or to R.S.V.P. contact us at

Philadelphia NSM and related immigration events