By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Immigration advocates joined members of Philadelphia City Council today to ask Mayor Nutter to delay signing a draft executive order on “ICE holds,” saying the community wants a say in the new policy.

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Under the city’s current agreement with  US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), when Philadelphia police stop an undocumented immigrant for even a minor offense such as a traffic violation, officers will enter the person’s information into a database shared with federal immigration authorities.

ICE can then ask police to voluntarily hold the person for questioning. Many times, this process leads to deportation for immigrants.  Advocates for the undocumented want Mayor Nutter to end the practice, but only after a March 3rd hearing.

“Hopefully with this process and our hearing, we can expand and improve the executive order and move forward together as a unified voice,” says Councilman James Kenney, who is supports ending the non-mandatory Police-ICE relationship on detainers.

“This is ultimately about fairness,” he adds.   “Native Philadelphians get arrested just like foreign people get arrested, and we don’t want to treat people different.  We need to change the tone.  Right now the tone is, if you come here, you could get deported.”

Comprehensive immigration reform has long been on President Obama’s agenda, but the measure has stalled in Congress.  Immigration reform advocates have used this tactic of pressuring cities and municipalities to change relations with ICE in the hope of ending deportations.

“Immigrant communities don’t feel safe, do not feel protected but terrorized by police,” says Blanca Pancheco of the New Sanctuary Movement. “ICE holds directly facilitate the school-to-deportation pipeline by turning over juveniles to the immigration system.”

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Grassroots immigration advocates say the police-ICE relationship on detainers results in large number of deportations and broken families.  In addition, they argue, the practice costs taxpayers, since ICE does not pay the city to detain individuals during a hold.

Other cities and municipalities have either modified or ended local ICE holds.

“What is the detainer’s cost to the city, what is the burden on the taxpayers, what is the burden on our police department?” asks Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.  “Let’s have that public discussion and then let’s talk about a policy that makes sense.”

No word yet from the Nutter administration regarding when or if the mayor will wait for the hearing to sign the executive order.


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