After several months of protests, meetings, rallies and negotiations brought the issue to the fore, the City of Philadelphia will not renew its data-sharing agreement with ICE, Mayor Jim Kenney and City Solicitor Marcel Pratt announced Friday.
The city’s contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which allows the federal agency access to the Police Department’s Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS), officially expires on August 31.
Getting the mayor to make this move was a primary goal of the Occupy ICE encampment, located first outside the local ICE headquarters and then — after PPD “bike-dozed” that setup — on the east apron of City Hall. Activists have been camped out there since the beginning of July.
The move came after extensive consideration, city officials said.
“My Administration engaged in dialogue with ICE in recent weeks about its use of PARS data,” Mayor Kenney said in a prepared statement, “and rather than allay these concerns, ICE officials in fact confirmed many of them.”
Factors cited by the city in coming to the decision not to renew included:
- ICE officials conceding its use of PARS could target residents who were never even accused of a crime
- A refusal by ICE to make an effort to avoid arresting law-abiding residents during enforcement actions
- Lack of any internal audit or self-monitoring by ICE on use of the PARS system
- Confirmation that ICE does indeed “probe” PARS daily to find people who self-report they were born outside this country and target them without any knowledge about immigration status
Pressure from the many organizations advocating for the end to data-sharing also played a large role in the decision to cancel the contract, said Office of Immigrant Affairs Director Miriam Enriquez.
Reaction among Philly’s immigrant communities was jubilant.
“Today Philly has shown once again it is not afraid to do what is right for our communities,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of immigrant rights organization Juntos. “We now serve as a real beacon of light to other cities across the country.”
Several elected officials and leaders applauded the move as solidifying Philadelphia status as a “sanctuary city” (or, as Kenney calls it, a “welcoming city”).
Many nonimmigrant citizens were also thrilled with the decision.
While reaction from some others, including Trump supporters, decried the move and called for the federal government to punish the city by cutting off funding.