Immigration advocates protest possible end of Philly as ‘sanctuary city’

 Protesters gather at City Hall in support of undocumented immigrants. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Protesters gather at City Hall in support of undocumented immigrants. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia-area groups that support immigrants protested Monday at City Hall, calling on the Nutter administration to keep Philadelphia a “sanctuary city.”  

More than 300 places across the country are described as sanctuary cities that protect immigrants charged with a crime from deportation by refusing to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Protesters assembled Monday want the city to continue that policy, while the Nutter administration is considering once again cooperating with federal immigration officials when it comes to undocumented immigrants accused of serious crimes such as murder, rape or terrorism.

That could lead to increased deportations.

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Estella Hernandez, who is not in the country legally, said through an interpreter that she’s worried.

“It impacts me very strongly,” she said. “I’ve already started to become afraid of the police again.”

Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, who said the administration is just weighing the issue, has talked to the protesting groups.

“We are — and have been asked by the federal government and by others — taking a look at our current policy and see if there should be a change,”  he said. “And if there is, under what circumstances ? We are transparent and ask for people’s input. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s where we are.”

City officials say Immigration authorities will still need a court order to have someone turned over to them.

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