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Amid the celebrations of Immigrant Heritage Month, a report, a rally and a lawsuit remind of work to be done

July 1, 2019 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose
As events throughout June celebrated Philadelphia residents’ immigrant heritages with everything from block parties and community conversations to naturalization ceremonies, there were reminders that immigrants today face much that cannot be celebrated.

On June 17, President Donald Trump tweeted that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would begin massive roundups of undocumented immigrants on June 23. The raids — which were projected to target families with a member with an existing deportation order — were delayed and are now projected to begin after the July 4th holiday.

The Philadelphia-area pro-immigrant community protested anyway.

A “Say NO to immigration raids” rally took take place June 24 in front of ICE’s Philadelphia field office. It brought together members of Asian Americans United and VietLEAD, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Shalom Center, Juntos, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), Make the Road PA, as well as individual and institutional members of the 30 congregations that are part of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia — the organizers of the rally.

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One of the first speakers to speak to the crowd that gathered on 8th Street was Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. He addressed head-on both the conditions of detention and the recent Twitter flame war that erupted when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described detention centers on the southern border as concentration camps.

“They are concentration camps,” Rabbi Waskow said at the rally in Philadelphia. “They are not yet death camps, but the crucial word in that sentence is ‘not yet.'”

(Headliner audiogram by Generocity)

“Today, more than ever,” said Prudence Powell, PICC’s office manager and development assistant, “we call on everyone here and across the state to join us in pushing back against the attack on our communities.”

Alix Mariko Webb, the executive director of Asian Americans United, focused attention on local detention centers. “We are standing in front of this ICE office,” Webb said, “to protest the Berks Pennsylvania detention center and the new VisionQuest detention being built in our own North Philadelphia community. We are here in protest of the US government’s wrongful policies and incarceration of our community members, and in solidarity with all who are in danger of incarceration, detention and deportation.”

Jacob Bender, the executive of CAIR Philadelphia, prefaced his remarks by saying that he is the first non-Muslim to lead one of the 35 chapters of the civil rights organization. “Being a Jew working for Muslims reminds me every day that this is not just a struggle of one minority or oppressed community. This is a struggle about what kind of nation we will bequeath to our children — a country open to all no matter our birthplace or who we love or wish to marry … or a country fearful of foreigners and faiths not our own, of complexions not our own.”

“Know that the American Muslim community,” Bender added, “will be here with you today, and tomorrow, and in future until a time when the Prophet says “Justice shall run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty river.”

The next day, June 25, Miguel Andrade, the communications director of Juntos who had a addressed the crowd at the rally as well, held a press conference to release a report conducted by Temple University‘s Sheller Center for Social Justice, indicating that there is significant collaboration between local police departments and ICE in counties across Pennsylvania, including those closest to Philadelphia County.

Click here to a video of the full press conference.

Interlocking Systems: How Pennsylvania Counties and Local Police are Assisting ICE to Deport Immigrants” found that “counties are consistently collaborating with ICE. County jails and probation departments, for example, regularly share information about immigrants with ICE pursuant to informal agreements or formal written policies. They also actively help ICE to locate and arrest immigrants.”

(Graphic courtesy of Juntos)

“On the other hand,” the report summary continues, “police collaboration appears to be less systematic and mostly ad hoc. The majority of the police departments we examined in Pennsylvania do not have written policies or arrangements governing ICE collaboration. The vacuum has created an opening for individual police officers to act based on their own personal inclinations, and for ICE to solicit greater levels of assistance from individual police and police departments.”

In a particularly alarming section which outlines collaboration between ICE and probation departments in Beaver, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties, the report states: “One probation officer told ICE that they could help because the immigrant “was just sentenced a week ago, so chances are good I can get him in here without suspicion. I can tell him he has to sign supervision papers, etc.”Another probation officer told an ICE officer “I can attempt to get him [the immigrant] to report in person if he needs to be taken into custody.”A review of the correspondence reveals, however, that many of the immigrants targeted by these methods were involved in misdemeanor crimes, such as simple assaults and DUIs, and participating in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). In other words, these are immigrants who are attempting to comply with the conditions of their probation.”

Some of the key findings from the report:

  • County jails systematically share information with ICE on a weekly, if not daily basis.
  • County probation officers work with ICE to entice immigrants to come in for appointments so they may be arrested by ICE.
  • Pennsylvania counties receive millions of dollars for jailing ICE detainees, who are being held for civil immigration violations.
  • ICE has actively courted police departments in Pennsylvania to engage in federal immigration enforcement.
  • The lack of formal written policies in police departments about interactions with ICE has created an opening for individual police officers to act based on their own personal inclinations.

Read the full report

Meanwhile, on June 27, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in the US Middle District Court in Harrisburg alleging that Pennsylvania State Police racially profile Latinx motorists so they can check immigration status.

Citing five cases — two in Cumberland County and one each in Adams, York and Bucks counties — the ACLU claims the state troopers stopped drivers merely because they looked Latinx, and then questioned the drivers and passengers in the car about their immigration status. According to reporting by PennLive, the suit records one instance when  “a trooper asked those who were stopped if they were ‘fence jumpers.'”

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