Detaining Asylum-Seekers in Berks Is a Tragedy; Detaining Their Children Is Immoral

I’ve been reading and rereading Warsan Shire’s poetry lately. The Somali-British poet was launched to a level of fame poets rarely achieve when Beyoncé extensively quoted her work in the visual album “Lemonade” — words of love, loss and infidelity beautifully suited to the theme of the American superstar’s concept piece.

But the words I’m rereading are about a different kind of love, loss and faithlessness: the love that prompts a mother to take her child on a dangerous boat ride on the Mediterranean or to cling to the external railing of “La Bestia” (the train that crosses from Mexico to the United States). Shire’s are the words of loss experienced by refugee and immigrant; of the faithlessness of countries that make survival so unlikely that its residents must flee, and the faithlessness of receiving countries who treat those immigrants and refugees as if the desire to live were criminal.  Read more »

Watch: The Story of South Philly Barbacoa’s Cristina Martinez

Cristina Martinez in the cart days | Photo by Emily Teel

Cristina Martinez in the cart days | Photo by Emily Teel

As part of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants coverage, the magazine produced a video on Cristina Martinez, the undocumented Mexican chef who runs the #6 restaurant on that list, South Philly Barbacoa. If you don’t know the story of Martinez and her husband Benjamin Miller it is a must-watch video.

And even if you do know the story, in this election year, it is a good reminder that immigration doesn’t just happen in a theoretical world, the struggles, successes and frustrations play out right here on the streets of Philadelphia and very often, in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants.
Watch the video »

City to Host Immigration Forum During the Democratic National Convention

Photo | Jim Kenney

Photo | Jim Kenney

The Mayor’s office will host a discussion on immigration during the Democratic National Convention this month.

Mayor Jim Kenney will join Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, and Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, as well as national immigration experts for a discussion of immigration’s impact on the nation.

The immigration forum will also address how cities and businesses can build “inclusive and welcoming” communities without extensive federal immigration reform.

The forum will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on July 25th in the ballroom of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Read more »

10 Things You Might Not Know About Philly’s June 1919 Anarchist Bombings

Left: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's house with bomb damage. Right: J. Edgar Hoover

Left: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s house with bomb damage. Right: a young J. Edgar Hoover

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling blocking President Obama‘s executive actions on immigration. A terrible hate crime against a club full of mostly Latino gays in Orlando. Foreigners blamed for violence and murder. Donald Trump‘s calls for a wall with Mexico. It’s hard to believe America has ever been more divided over whom to let into the country and whom to keep out — or deport. But there’s nothing new about cries of “America First.” On June 2, 1919, within 90 minutes of each another, eight bombs of what the FBI called “extraordinary capacity” exploded in seven U.S. cities: New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Patterson, N.J., Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The bombs, each constructed of as much as 25 pounds of dynamite and salted with heavy metal slugs meant to act as shrapnel, were the work of anarchists, according to fliers printed on pink paper. The frantic search for the bombers, centered in Philadelphia, would jump-start the career of future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and lead to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants — with some unexpected consequences. Here, 10 things you might not know about those dangerous days.  Read more »

Why the Co-Owner of One of Philly’s Favorite Taquerias Was in Jail Yesterday

Demonstrators yesterday (left); demonstrator Lluli Pilar's daughter, Fernanda, with her father, Juan Carlos Romero, as Pilar was arrested. Photos | Sabrina Vourvoulias

Demonstrators yesterday (left); Lluli Pilar’s daughter, Fernanda, with her father, Juan Carlos Romero, as Pilar was arrested. Photos | Sabrina Vourvoulias

The simple story is this: Yesterday, for about an hour or so, the I-676 ramp at Vine street was blocked by a 13-year-old boy, a college student, a minister and the co-proprietor of a popular taquería (which won “Best of Philadelphia” accolades in 2011 and 2012), all of them literally and figuratively united in their call for a freeze on deportations.

On the sidelines (streets, median and sidewalks) supporters from Juntos, Make the Road PA, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and just ordinary folks gathered to chant in English and Spanish; media scrambled to get close enough to take photos of the protestors linked arm-to-arm by reinforced tubing; and law enforcement personnel from a number of different units, including a counter-terrorism squad, figured out what to do (and how to block the sight of what was happening from all those without the privilege of press credentials). 

After issuing three warnings in English and Spanish, police cut through each connector tube with a Dremel saw, cuffed the protestors one-by-one, loaded them into a police van and took them to the 9th Police District where they were cited for obstruction and released three hours later.

When Lluli (pronounced Yoo-lee) Pilar — the co-proprietor of the original award-winning Taquitos de Puebla on 9th Street which was shuttered two months ago — was cuffed and loaded into the police van, her 6-year-old daughter Fernanda burst into tears. It was impossible to watch the inconsolable child and not realize that this was heartbreakingly similar to scenes repeated everyday — when ICE agents cuff and remove undocumented immigrant mothers and fathers in front of their U.S. citizen children — and was exactly what the four people blocking the street were protesting. Read more »

SCOTUS Deadlock on Obama’s Immigration Plan: Shameful and Wrong


On November 20, 2014, Philadelphians at Taquitos de Puebla watched President Obama announce his plan to provide deportation relief to undocumented immigrants. | Photos by Sabrina Vourvoulias

One of my most vivid memories in recent years is of the evening of November 20th, 2014, when I was in an overcrowded South Philly eatery watching television. President Barack Obama was on the air, announcing that he was taking executive action to offer temporary deportation relief to an estimated 4 million undocumented people via programs that helped undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (known was “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans,” or DAPA) as well as undocumented people who arrived in the country before age 16 (extended “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” or DACA+).

Inside Taquitos de Puebla on 9th Street, the atmosphere was electric with hope. Those who qualified would be able to get out of a shadow economy that relies on their labor without according them any protections, and conduct their daily lives without the soul-crushing fear that at any moment agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement could swoop down to deport them.

Almost immediately, the president’s executive actions were challenged legally, and for two years those people with whom I had celebrated that November night carefully banked their hopes and waited as the legal case wound its way through the lower courts to the Supreme Court.

This Thursday, those hopes were dashed after the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on the issue, a non-decision that effectively lets the lower court’s injunction stand. Read more »

Philly Latino Activists: Obama Is “Deporter-in-Chief”

People assemble for a press conference at Juntos in response to today's Supreme Court ruling on immigration

Members of the Latino immigrant community appear at a press conference decrying today’s Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s immigration program.

According to Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant activists, Barack Obama’s primary legacy from his eight years in office can be summed up in three words: Deporter in chief.

Activists and organizers today gathered at Juntos in South Philly to comment on today’s split ruling from the Supreme Court on President Obama’s immigration policy.

The court actually ruled on a program Obama and immigration activists support today. In a one-sentence decision — “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court” — the court announced it had split, 4-all, which means the Obama administration will not be able to implement its immigration plans before the end of his term. Read more »

New Play Asks: What’s It Actually Like to Be an Immigrant

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

The current presidential saga has brought the subject of immigration to an unfortunate and incendiary head, but what’s it like to actually be an immigrant?

That’s the idea behind this world premiere from frequent Pig Iron Theatre Company collaborator Emmanuelle Delpech, who emigrated from France to Philadelphia in 1998. Read more »

Face It, Sen. Toomey, You’re a Cafeteria Catholic Like the Rest of Us

Sen. Patrick Toomey, speaks to reporters outside his office in Washington on April 12, 2016.

“I was born and raised Catholic. I am a practicing Catholic. We are active members of our church. Our kids attend Catholic school, so my faith is a part of who I am. What I have learned through faith helps inform my judgment on many, many issues. It’s hard to quantify, but my faith is an important source of informing my judgment.”

The preceding quote is one of Pat Toomey’s responses to a candidates’ questionnaire prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Communications and and published in the Catholic Standard & Times October 28, 2010, edition, just prior to the election in which he eked out a victory over Admiral Joe Sestak to claim the U.S. Senate seat for Pennsylvania.

Truth is, no Catholic disputed his religious bona fides — he was outspoken about his pro-life views, and had long been a supporter of school choice and the vouchers that favor archdiocesan education. Since then he’s taken a number of stands that he (and other conservative Catholics) have characterized as safeguarding religious liberties and practice — including efforts to exempt religious employers from carrying insurance that covers birth control and opposing discrimination laws that include LGBTQ protections. He is not — by many Pennsylvania Catholics’ accounting — a “cafeteria Catholic,” that is, someone who has cherry-picked which issues to stand Catholic about.

Well … except for immigration.  Read more »

WATCH: NE Philly Rep. White Clashes with Immigration Activists

Al Día has posted a video showing Northeast Philly State Rep. Martina White yelling at immigrants’ rights activists in her Harrisburg office.

Last month, White introduced a bill that would hold sanctuary cities — ones that bar local cooperation with federal immigration authorities — “liable for damages on account of an injury to a person or property as a result of criminal activity by an unauthorized alien.” Read more »

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