The Philadelphia Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter signed onto this letter set forward by the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement. We consulted with the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns prior to doing so. This letter seeks to influence city officials in Philadelphia to refrain from renewing the city’s relationship with ICE through the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS). This PARS agreement is similar to the “Secure Communities “program and both undermine the confidence and trust that immigrants have in the local police which in turn affects the safety of communities.
Dear Mayor Michael Nutter, Judge Marsha Neifield, and District Attorney Seth Williams:
We are writing you as a leader in Philadelphia concerned about public safety and our city's future. We believe that giving agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) access to the arrest information from the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) decreases safety in our communities. People in immigrant communities are afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation. Lack of trust between local police and communities means that crimes go unreported and witnesses are afraid to come forward.
Convictions are harder, or impossible, for prosecutors to obtain. Women are afraid to report abuse for fear of being deported.
In addition, this cooperation between the police and ICE increases the risk of racial profiling and raises serious constitutional concerns. Because ICE is notified upon arrest of an individual, and not conviction, officers can arrest individuals they suspect are deportable without just cause. Once placed in deportation proceedings individuals have little chance of seeking justice, as the constitution is presumed to no longer apply and legal counsel can be impossible to access. Detention is often long and at a remote location far from family and community ties, all of which further erodes trust between police and immigrant communities.
Across the country cities, states, and members of congress have raised serious concerns about the “Secure Communities” program which is very similar to the PARS agreement. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote a letter to Obama asking for a moratorium on the Secure Communities program. Representative Lofgren from CA has called for a national investigation of ICE and the Secure Communities program due to evidence of ongoing misinformation, and lack of transparency. The Department of Homeland Security has recently admitted to serious problems with ICE's "Secure Communities" agreements with states or local governments like Philadelphia's, and issued a statement that yet-undetermined changes must be made for the programs to be legal and effective.
In the past few months, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York have refused to wait, and have demanded cancellation of their agreements with ICE. A growing number of cities including San Francisco, Washington D.C., and President Obama's home town of Chicago, oppose partnership with ICE, finding it counterproductive to the goals of local law enforcement and local government.
Here in Philadelphia, immigrants have been central to reversing the trend of our declining population, increasing entrepreneurship and revitalizing many neighborhoods. The City of Philadelphia has created policies aimed to make the city welcoming to immigrants and capitalize on their promise. We are concerned that continued partnership with ICE undermines these efforts and threatens the city's future growth. Moreover, the safety of all Philadelphians depends on people trusting the police enough to come forward and report crimes and to be willing to testify in court. A program that damages the community’s trust in the police makes all of us less safe.
At this time, we can not yet know if efforts to reform Secure Communities and related programs will be successful. We therefore am asking you not to renew the PARS agreement, so that Philadelphia fulfill its promise to become a truly welcoming, global city.