Activists: Immigration Enforcement Shifting to Philly Suburbs

Federal activity declines in Philadelphia since city ended cooperation.

Immigration authorities have moved the bulk of their enforcement activities to the suburbs since Mayor Nutter ended cooperation with the feds during the spring, an immigrant-rights group reports.

“In some counties ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) meets with the district attorney twice per week,” said Jasmine Rivera, lead organizer for Juntos, a Philadelphia immigrant-rights organization. “In Chester county the juvenile court system reports all undocumented juveniles to ICE. Driver’s license check-points are used to identify undocumented immigrants. And we have noticed an increase of arrests in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where there are no ICE hold policies”

Her comments came in a new report by the National Day Labor Organizing Network, which is behind a campaign to end deportations of foreign nationals — even so-called “undocumented immigrants — from American soil.

Under a previous agreement with ICE, Philadelphia Police held undocumented immigrants it had arrested until ICE could detain them for deportation proceedings. The city’s new policy, formally adopted in April, ends that cooperation — except for immigrants with first- or second-degree felonies, and then only when ifederal officials have a warrant from a judge.

Since then, Juntos activists say, federal authorities have changed tactics, and largely moved out of Philadelphia.

“There’s been a shift,” said Erika Almiron, the executive director of Juntos. “We haven’t seen much of the issue of ICE holds.”

Instead of relying on local police, the NDLON report says, ICE authorities have increasingly used its own “targeted enforcement” actions — raids by another, friendlier name — aimed at individuals thought to represent a threat to the community. Those raids often end up catching undocumented immigrants who share a house the person targeted.

Juntos said such raids are on the rise in Philadelphia, but its members were unable to quanitify just how many had taken place in the region in recent years.

Juntos’ leaders aren’t terribly concerned that such folks are in the United States illegally. They say undocumented immigrants have contributed to the well-being of communities on this side of the border — sometimes for decades at a time — all while living in fear of arrest and deportation.

“Our work …is for the survival of our people, so they can live dignified lives,” Almiron said. “Our families are strong and they’re going to keep on fighting until this kind of persecution stops.”

Calls to ICE’s Philadelphia headquarters went unanswered this morning. Juntos is holding a press conference at 3 this afternoon to feature families it says have been affected by the changing tactics.