Since 2008, the City of Philadelphia has granted ICE access to its police database, allowing ICE officials to search for individuals by country of origin in order to target foreign-born individuals.
On June 22, over 65 immigrants, allies, and religious leaders and 13 faith communities in Philadelphia began “40 Days of Fasting, Action, and Prayer” to demand an end to the collaboration between the Philadelphia Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The fast, organized by the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia (NSM), seeks to pressure Philadelphia officials to end local policies that result in mass deportation. Even if federal comprehensive immigration reform is passed by Congress, millions will be excluded from achieving citizenship and local deportation programs will continue to separate families and endanger public safety. In addition to participating in Secure Communities, Philadelphia is unique in granting ICE direct and unprecedented access to the local police’s electronic database.
Since 2008, the City of Philadelphia has granted ICE access to the database (Preliminary Arraignment System, or “PARS”), allowing federal immigration officials to search individuals in police custody by country of origin in order to target foreign-born individuals. ICE requires Philadelphia police to hold potentially deportable individuals in local custody until that person can be transferred to federal custody to enter deportation proceedings.
The result? The separation of families, violation of civil rights, increased racial profiling, waste of precious tax dollars in a city facing deep budget cuts, and the endangerment of public safety as many undocumented Philadelphians do not feel safe reporting crimes and cooperating with the police.
Local immigrant rights organizations, including NSM, have been organizing for meaningful policy change that will help protect families and basic human rights. In 2011, NSM and other immigrant rights organizations successfully pushed the Philadelphia City Council to unanimously pass a non-binding resolution discontinuing ICE’s access to the PARS database in 2011. Despite this, the practice continues and the local police continue to funnel individuals in their custody into deportation.