Arizona on the Delaware? Philadelphia Police Aid Deportations
In late April Arizona Governor signed Senate Bill 1070 into law. SB 1070, also know as the ‘Papers Please’ law, mandates that all police officers inquire about immigration status if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented. This state sanctioned racial profiling has received intense opposition from across the country, with major political and cultural figures such as basketball player Charles Barkley speaking out against it.
Philadelphia has been participating in a program similar to SB1070 for the past 2 years.
The Philadelphia Police Department collaborates closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that focuses on deportation and detention. In the early winter of 2009 Mayor Nutter re-established a policy of "non-inquiry," which prohibits police officers or any other city employee from asking about immigration status.
Despite this policy, once a person is in police custody ICE has the opportunity to interview and/or detain that person. This happens in two ways. The first way is though a national program called Secure Communities, which shares fingerprints from local jails with ICE. In the same way that finger prints get sent to the FBI, they are now sent to ICE. The Obama administration plans to implement this program in every jail across the country by 2013.
The second way ICE obtains information is through a contract between city officials and ICE, granting ICE access to the city database listing anyone in police custody at any moment. This database is called Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) and includes name and country of origin, among other things. ICE can interview and/or detain anyone born out of the country who has been arrested, including green card holders, asylum seekers, people with Temporary Protective Status, and undocumented immigrants.
While ICE claims that these programs target violent offenders, the reality is that over 80 percent of people are deported due to minor charges including traffic violations. (Also, these policies mean that immigrants who are arrested are deported or in deportation proceedings, before any trial or conviction, undermining due process.)
Police and ICE collaborations wreak havoc in immigrant communities. Fear of deportation eliminates the opportunity for immigrants to reach out to police services when they are needed. For example, if someone is robbed, they are not going to call the police for fear that they will be arrested, and then face deportation. Or, if someone is involved in a domestic dispute, they won’t call the police out of fear that they or their spouse will be arrested and consequentially deported. This collaboration furthers marginalization of these communities through fear of police and any other government agency.
ICE claims that because these programs rely on electronic data sharing, there is no opportunity for racial profiling. On the ground, we see an escalation of all too common practices of racial profiling within the Philadelphia Police Department. Traffic stops that already happen as a result of racial profiling, can now lead to deportation. Extreme punishment for “running a stop sign.”
We don’t need Arizona’s SB 1070, or our own HR 2479. It is already happening right here in Philadelphia.
New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia and many other groups around the city are working to end all collaboration between the Philadelphia Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Join us at a Public Forum in South Philadelphia on June 27th where community leaders will share their experiences and concerns about these programs with city officials, decision makers and hundreds of supporters.
For more information about local organizing around this issue check out www.sanctuaryphiladelphia.org. To get involved, email Jen Rock at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a growing national movement calling for the end of all collaborations between local law enforcement and ICE. Check out http://uncoverthetruth.org, for a compilation of resources about communities in resistance.