Philadelphia will stop sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), citing both its misuse and the detention of undocumented immigrants who are not accused of committing any crime. The city has been under pressure from Occupy ICE activists to end information-sharing with the agency.
In an announcement made Friday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said that the city would not renew the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, or PARS. That shared law enforcement program allows ICE to access police information about people who have been arrested.
“We’re not going to provide them with information so they can go out and round people up,” said Kenney.
The mayor emphasized that cooperating with ICE has created problems for the city and put residents in danger.
“Such practices sow fear and distrust in Philadelphia’s great immigrant community, and make it more difficult for our Police Department to solve crimes. I cannot in good conscience allow the agreement to continue,” Kenney said.
“How anyone can define this as making America great again is beyond me,” the mayor added, referencing a line often used by President Donald Trump.
In a statement, ICE officials expressed disappointment in the move and hit out at Philadelphia.
“The city’s refusal to honor detainers, coupled now with the termination of the PARS contract further restricts ICE from detaining individuals with pending criminal matters or criminal convictions, and only adds insult to injury by needlessly compromising public safety,” the agency said. “Despite these attempts to obstruct ICE’s lawful efforts to apprehend criminal aliens, the agency remains committed to its efforts to uphold public safety in the City of Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia entered into the agreement a decade ago, later revising it in 2009 in an effort to protect immigrants who serve as victims and witnesses. Kenney’s office has come under fire from Philadelphia activists over the city’s arrangement with ICE. Philadelphia identifies itself as a so-called sanctuary city, meaning immigrants detained in connection with crimes are not released to federal agents without a judicial warrant and that cooperation more broadly with the agency is limited.
However, through PARS the city allows ICE access to a real-time arrest database. Dozens of protesters have camped outside Philadelphia City Hall over the past few weeks, calling for an end to the agreement. Occupy ICE activists blocked a city hall stairway on Wednesday to demand a meeting with the mayor over such practices. The protesters held the area for more than an hour, insisting that Philadelphia end all cooperation with ICE, with an emphasis on PARS.
Two days later, Kenney announced the agreement’s end. The contract requires two out of three stakeholders to end it, according to Talking Points Memo, with the city, the district attorney, and the district courts all party to the arrangement. District Attorney Larry Krasner previously came out against PARS earlier this month.
According to CBS, city solicitor Marcel Pratt sent a termination letter to ICE on Thursday saying that the agreement “has created the false perception that the city is willing to be an extension of ICE,” something Pratt said was not in the “best interests” of Philadelphia.
With the city’s decision, the PARS contract is now set to end on August 31, barring any sudden shifts.
It is unclear how many cities have arrangements similar to Philadelphia, or whether others might follow the city’s lead. A number of cities have sued the Trump administration in order to maintain their sanctuary policies, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. On Friday, a federal judge handed a victory to Chicago, ruling that the federal government could not deny the city public funding over its decision to minimize cooperation with ICE.
While the Trump administration has aggressively cracked down on immigration since the president took office, tensions over the issue have become more widespread in recent months. Controversy over the separation of children from their parents at the border has alarmed Americans and sparked mass protests. The government was under a court order to reunite all separated families by Thursday, but as of Saturday, hundreds of children have not been reunited with their parents.