Immigrant rights activists rallied at City Hall Friday as Mayor Michael Nutter moves to roll back an executive order he signed last year, which made Philadelphia a “sanctuary city.”
About 50 protesters chanted and blocked two public entrances to City Hall for several hours. At one point, police forcibly removed eight people who had been sitting in the two doorways. They kept their arms linked as officers dragged them outside, some by their shoulders, others by their clothing.
Protestors have been dragged from entrance. “You’re stepping on my face.” pic.twitter.com/OfDb1z9uIJ
— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) December 11, 2015
The protesters said they feel betrayed by Nutter whom they saw as an ally after he signed an executive order in April 2014 saying the city would no longer keep immigrants in police custody at the request of federal immigration and customs enforcement or ICE.
Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said the new order would allow the city to detain those slated to be released from custody if they have already been “convicted of a first- or second-degree felony involving violence” — such as rape, murder or terrorism — and if ICE presents a valid judicial order. Those in the country illegally, but otherwise innocent of such crimes, will not be detained, McDonald said.
Blanca Pacheco, a community organizer with New Sanctuary Movement, said she believes the city shouldn’t cooperate with ICE under any circumstances.
“The city should not be doing the work of immigration and what this does … only creates fear, creates people to be isolated and the separation of families,” Pacheco said.
Nutter has not signed the order yet, but plans to do so before he leaves office at the end of the month.
His successor, Jim Kenney, is vowing to undo the move with another executive order.
The Rev. Jose Carrera is one of six Hispanic clergy members who met with Nutter and Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison Thursday morning. He said Nutter told them he is keeping in step with changes in federal policy.
Five months after Nutter signed the first executive order cutting local ties with ICE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of a new initiative called the Priority Enforcement Program or PEP. PEP replaced a program known as “Secure Communities,” in which local police shared information with ICE.
Secure Communities was criticized by advocates who said the program made immigrants afraid of seeking help from authorities and resulted in a large number of unnecessary deportations. The federal government has billed PEP as targeting “felons, not families.”
“Honestly, we feel that it’s reasonable,” Carrera said of Nutter’s proposed executive order, “But the repercussions we still believe [are] that trust is going to be broken.”