Pro-Immigration Groups Rally Against Nutter’s Proposal to Reverse “Sanctuary City” Policy

Activists said the mayor's plan would break a promise to immigrant communities.

Photos by Holly Otterbein

Photos by Holly Otterbein

More than 50 people gathered at City Hall Monday to condemn the Nutter administration’s proposal to reverse an executive order that limits cooperation between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents.

“I am deeply disappointed,” said Rabbi Linda Holtzman. “I thought I lived in a city where a mayor might keep his promises. Shame on you, Mayor Nutter.”

Everett Gillison, Mayor Michael Nutter’s chief-of-staff, reportedly said in a meeting last week with immigrants’ rights advocates that the city is thinking about letting police cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a suspect is charged with murder, robbery, rape, domestic violence, involvement in terrorism or illegal possession of a firearm. Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “Kenney’s camp has not seen a draft of the order, but if it was as the advocates described, Kenney would overturn it.”

Activists on Monday argued that changing the policy, even if only temporarily, would create confusion within immigrant communities and discourage residents from reporting crimes to police. Others said that Nutter’s new proposal lacked specifics.

“We don’t know what to respond to,” said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. “We don’t know what we’re fighting against.” Sánchez said she stood with allies in calling for Nutter to drop the proposal.

Alejandra Motta of the New Sanctuary Movement said in Spanish at the rally that Nutter recently claimed “all immigrants are welcome in the city of fraternity,” according to a translator. Now, “we now realize that is hogwash,” she said.

Some in the crowd speculated that Nutter is seeking to roll back the executive order at the tail end of his term because he has higher political aspirations. Perhaps, they said, he wants a spot in a future Clinton administration.

“We will not allow Mayor Nutter to throw our communities under the bus!” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos. “Our families are more important than anybody’s career.”

Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Nutter, said the notion that the mayor is eyeing this amendment to secure a political appointment is “both insulting and false.”

McDonald described the proposal as a “minor change.” Under the policy, he said, “if ICE asked the city if a certain person was in its custody, in certain circumstances, the city might confirm the person’s presence in a city facility.” He said Nutter has not made a decision either way yet, however.

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