Nutter’s executive order on ICE detainers will put more violent criminal aliens on Philly’s streets

 Mayor Nutter reading the executive order that ends ICE detainers as long as the person being released has no first or second degree felonies. (Nathaniel Hamilton/For Newsworks)

Mayor Nutter reading the executive order that ends ICE detainers as long as the person being released has no first or second degree felonies. (Nathaniel Hamilton/For Newsworks)

When Arizona tried to enforce its own standards on illegal immigration, that state was told immigration is exclusively a federal matter.

But Philadelphia seems to think it can enforce its own standards on illegal immigration independent of federal law.

State and local law enforcement has traditionally tried to cooperate with federal law enforcement. When state and local law enforcement need back-up, they hope that federal agencies will be inclined to help based on their on-going relationship.

When the federal agency in charge of immigration enforcement, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), learns that a state or local agency is holding someone whose fingerprints and identity match those of someone ICE is seeking to remove from the U.S., ICE issues a detainer requesting that the person be held up to 48 hours until ICE can confirm the information and take custody of the alien.

On April 16, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued an executive order directing city officials to refuse to honor ICE detainers unless all of four conditions are satisfied: First, the individual must have been convicted of a crime. Not charged with a crime, however serious, but convicted of a crime. Second, the criminal conviction must be for a felony. Third, the felony must have involved violence. And fourth, and most importantly, there must be an outstanding judicial warrant for the detention.

Mayor Nutter cites other jurisdictions which have refused to honor some ICE detainers. But no other jurisdiction has adopted a policy as rigid as Philadelphia’s, with such limited cooperation with the federal agency charged with immigration law enforcement.

ICE is authorized by law to arrest and detain aliens it believes to be removable without a judicial warrant. As the immigration advocates who pushed Mayor Nutter to issue his executive order know and have publicly stated, the requirement of a judicial warrant, if it means what it says, will “in practice…end all deportation holds” because ICE does not obtain judicial warrants to accompany detainers. The advocates call Mayor Nutter’s executive order the “most progressive policy in the country.”

So what will happen to removable aliens encountered by police in Philadelphia, many of whom have no right to be in the U.S. in the first place? Under the Mayor’s executive order they will be released onto the streets of Philadelphia despite any ICE request to hold them for removal from the United States.

And it’s not as though ICE has been particularly vigorous in trying to enforce U.S. immigration law. Under the Obama administration’s policy of “prosecutorial discretion”, unlawful presence by itself is insufficient to cause ICE to initiate removal proceedings. And the New York Times reports that, “New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in the nation’s immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009,” leading to “a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years.”

Even while American workers suffer from prolonged high unemployment and underemployment and stagnant wages because of surplus labor, the Nutter administration and the Obama administration compete to signal that increased illegal immigration into U.S. and Philadelphia labor markets will be tolerated and not prosecuted.

Business interests welcome increasing illegal immigration as a means to hold down wages and working conditions for American workers. Both Democrats and establishment Republicans are responsive to the interests of the richest 1% who fund their campaigns. Does anyone believe our political system is operating in the best interests of ordinary working-class Americans and Philadelphians?

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