Three undocumented immigrants arrested as U.S. agency pushes for tougher Philly policy

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Children of immigrants stand in front of City Hall to protest city policies they say are tearing their families apart. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

Children of immigrants stand in front of City Hall to protest city policies they say are tearing their families apart. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have announced the arrests of three undocumented men with criminal records in Philadelphia. The arrests come as the agency continues to pressure the mayor’s office to change its “sanctuary city” policy barring local law enforcement from detaining immigrants on the behalf of ICE.

All three men had recently been released from city custody when they were picked up by federal immigration officials. ICE had lodged detainers with Philadelphia law enforcement that were not honored, per the city’s policy. 

In a press release, ICE said the arrests of the three men reflect an agency priority: targeting for deportation undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.

Marco Arturo Juarez-Ramos, a Mexican citizen, had previously been convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants. Elvis Velasquez-Roblero, also a Mexican citizen, had been convicted of aggravated assault and weapons offenses. Fabio Dalloco, an Italian citizen, pleaded guilty in August to possessing 14 pounds of cocaine with the intention to deliver it, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

“These are really good arrests making the community safe,” said Thomas Decker, director of ICE’s Philadelphia field office. “But at the same time, [ICE is] hoping that the city of Philadelphia will see working together, we can make the city safe and also make these arrests in a facility instead of outside on the streets.”

But Mayor Jim Kenney has resisted changes, saying the executive order he signed his first day in office is meant to protect immigrants living here illegally, but who are otherwise law-abiding city residents. The policy does allow the city to detain those convicted of a violent felony on ICE’s behalf, so long as the agency has a warrant.

“They could get a warrant, and we would turn them right over,” Kenney said. “But they want a blanket ability to ask us to hold people against the constitution without a warrant.”

Decker said needing to obtain a warrant “puts an immense and unnecessary burden” on ICE, and in some cases is not possible. For example, Decker said ICE would not have been able to get a judicial warrant for Dalloco’s arrest since he had already been prosecuted by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. 

Kenney has held fast to the policy even as it has become a political football in this year’s presidential campaigns, as well as the competitive race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. 

In May, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with immigrant advocates and Kenney staffers as part of an ongoing effort to convince the administration to comply with the “priorities enforcement program,” or PEP, which aims to target undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes.

Montgomery County-based immigration attorney Sondra Miller-Wein participated in that meeting. She said she showed Johnson a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which found half of those being detained under PEP during the first two months of this year had no criminal record.

“Nobody wants felony murderers and drug dealers to be on the streets, but that’s not actually indicative of the types of people being detained,” Miller-Wein said. 

“If that was the case, there would be a lot more support for this cooperative effort between ICE and the city,” she added.

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