Philadelphia politicians are debating whether to continue a pact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement–the so-called PARS agreement–that shares information about defendants.
Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison said the city has some unresolved questions. “We are currently on par to sign the agreement but we still have additional questions that we’re asking,” said Gillison. “At this point it is our intention to renew. We will see if other information comes out that would cause us any pause, but right now that is our intention.”
Some City Councilmembers are pressuring the Mayor and District Attorney to scrap the deal that’s up for renewal before the end of the month.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sánchez said programs encouraging local involvement in federal immigration enforcement, such as PARS, are counterproductive.”There are a lot of crimes that are not being reported because people are scared that they will be deported,” Quinones-Sanchez said. “That presents for us a large public safety issue in Philadelphia.”Councilman Jim Kenney said he’s reaching out to lots of people, including Philadelphia’s District Attorney.”[DA] Seth Williams has been helpful in understanding at least the sensitivity of it,” said Kenney. “I’ve met with Judge Neifield who’s the President Judge of Municipal Court, also very understanding and sensitive to the issue. I don’t sense though that the Mayor, Commissioner, or the Deputy Commissioner for the city are sensitized to this issue as I would like them to be.”
The program was designed to help immigration officials nab illegal immigrants guilty of serious crimes but critics say it’s affecting immigrants guilty of minor offenses as well.