In April of this year, the Philadelphia state legislation turned their focus to a national movement, created to defend immigrants against deportation for negligible and nonviolent crimes. An administrative command was signed and enforced by Mayor Nutter, in order to terminate the city’s submission with federal agencies and agents who have requested that all arrested immigrants be held, even if they are to be released due to a pending trial. This policy applies to both police and prison departments in Philadelphia. The reasoning behind this course of action lies in the Mayor’s belief that many of the immigrants in holding end up in removal proceedings for small, misdemeanors.
Detention requests, per U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS), otherwise referred to as ‘ICE holds’, were introduced in order to facilitate a federal agents’ ability to capture dangerous criminals who are residing in the country illegally. However, because of the ICE holds, there is a detrimental influence on some of the immigrants. In most cases, immigrants refuse to cooperate with authorities or participate as a trial witness due to the fear of ICE holding and the possible consequences. Essentially, this new policy means that Philadelphia will no longer inform ICE about the release of an immigrant unless the immigrant in question has been convicted of a “violent felony”, and ICE has obtained a warrant from a judge to support their demand.
As the immigration reform debate continues, many cities are taking matters into their own hands. Miami, San Francisco, Newark, New Orleans, and New York City, as well as 12 other cities have also modified their immigration policies to halt ICE holds. They are sending a message to the federal authorities letting them know that they will no longer be detaining immigrants in order to check for their current immigration status.