The Occupy ICE Philadelphia protesters won a major victory when Mayor Jim Kenney sided with them last week on ending the city’s information-sharing contract with ICE.
But while the Occupy-style protesters left the side of City Hall, they aren’t done yet – they’ve just moved a few blocks, to Broad and Arch streets, to see out the city’s fulfillment of a promise to change the decade-old policy.
“After complying with the city’s 22 hour deadline to decamp from the east side of city hall, we have chosen to move to our new location in order to monitor the situation with the PARS agreement, ‘Occupy ICE PHL‘ organizers said in a statement, “as well as commit resources to our remaining objectives of closing the ICE contracted Berks Family Detention Center as well as the disruption and ultimate abolition of ICE itself.”
Immigrant activist groups Juntos and New Sanctuary Movement hailed Kenney’s decision to stop allowing the Philadelphia office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to view real-time data about arrests across Philadelphia through the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS). Occupy ICE Philadelphia became the most visible opponents of the city’s PARS contract in late June, as fury spiked over immigrant children and parents being separated at the border.
“If I could abolish ICE, I would. But we can abolish this contract,” Kenney said during his Friday announcement of the change.
The PARS contract with ICE is now reportedly set to expire on Aug. 31, 2018.
On Monday, Pennsylvania State Rep. Martina White, a Republican representing Northeast Philly and part of Lower Bucks County, took to Fox News to trash Kenney’s decision.
“It’s truly shocking that the mayor was willing to end a contract that was actually helping to keep our community safe,” White said on Fox & Friends on July 30, adding that crime victims and witnesses weren’t identified in PARS, and said undocumented immigrants who have been the victim of a crime can apply for a U-visa.
Republican candidate for governor Scott Wagner also criticized Kenney and called for state laws pre-empting Kenney’s decision.
ICE officials said in a statement they were “deeply disappointed” by Kenney’s choice.
“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,” ICE officials said.
But city officials said they had various concerns with ICE’s use of the data and the possibility of it leading to immigration actions against people not charged with a crime.
Victory for Occupy ICE Philadelphia?
Occupy ICE Philadelphia became the most visible opponents of the city’s PARS contract in late June, as fury spiked over immigrant children and parents being separated at the border. Thousands attended protests in late June and early July at which several dozens were detained.
Occupy ICE movements popped up at local offices of the agency across the country, including Portland, New York and Sacramento. The Occupy ICE Philadelphia protesters, possibly the most successful in the country, said in their statement that they were shifting focus to the full abolition of ICE and looking to potentially stop the practice of stop-and-frisk.
“We have observed over the past 22 days of occupation and outreach at City Hall that many people in Philadelphia make an intuitive connection between the PARS program and the city’s official policy of ‘Stop and frisk,’ which Mayor Jim Kenney promised to halt 3 years ago while he was on the campaign trail,” the group said. “Stop and frisk is a domestic police policy that targets Philadelphia’s poor communities and communities of color in very much same way PARS attacks immigrants.”