Following through on what he called a promise he made to President Obama, Mayor Michael Nutter Tuesday said that he would immediately reverse an executive order he made in 2014 to make Philadelphia a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.
Last year, Nutter signed an executive order ending the policy of so-called ICE (Immigrations & Customs Enforcement) holds, wherein the city detains suspected undocumented immigrants and keeps them in custody for federal authorities to takeover.
During a press conference in City Hall Tuesday and with roughly two weeks left in office, Nutter said he would undo that provision, and instead alert the feds when the city has dangerous criminals in custody they want.
“If ICE makes a request to the city about a specific individual, with certain conditions, that we have in custody, what they’re asking for is to know when the person will be released. That is the sum and substance of the proposed change,” said Nutter.
The conditions are these – that the person is suspected of terrorism or espionage, has been convicted of felonies such as murder, rape, robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, or is known to be a member of a criminal street gang, or if the person being released had prior convictions of any of those serious felonies.
“These are folks who are already in custody,” said Nutter.
“We’re talking about a very targeted, narrow group of people who are already known to be dangerous.”
He also proposed other set of changes, including the creation of a new, 15-member “Immigration Policing Community Advisory Board,” the members of which would be appointed by the incoming mayor.
But as he’s said before, Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney vowed to go back to the original executive order from 2014, calling it a more inclusionary approach to dealing with immigrants.
“We feel this is a step backwards in community police relations,” Kenney said.
“Any change to the City's ICE non-cooperation policy requires buy-in from the community. This executive order change clearly lacks that.”
The measure drew outrage from members of the local immigrant community, who showed up to Tuesday’s press conference in protest.
“It’s three days before Christmas – so what we’re going to see is our families get picked up,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, the South Philly-based community-led organization that works to advocate for immigrants’ rights.
“Whatever he says – versus what we know to be real and what we know ICE has done historically – is that our families will be impacted. So, this is not a merry Christmas for immigrant communities in the city of Philadelphia…It ruins our expectations of this city ever being a welcoming city.”
Nutter said the order goes into effect immediately.