Mayor Michael Nutter directed city agencies to stop cooperating with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer holds via executive order today.
Surrounded by a crowd of more than 100, Nutter signed the long-awaited executive order that immigrant rights advocates are calling a victory in their battle against ICE detainer holds.
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"Finally today, we win!" said Sundrop Carter, lead organizer at the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, at a rally before the executive order signing.
"Philadelphia will no longer participate in the mass deportation of our friends and neighbors," said Naroen Chhin, a 1Love Movement organizer. "Philadelphia's leading the way on how to dismantle the deportation machine and become a truly welcoming city for all communities."
These groups, along with New Sanctuary Movement and Juntos, have long appealed to city officials to change ICE holds, including at a City Council hearing last month on the issue.
"Many of those detained and deported [via ICE hold] have no criminal background or have only committed misdemeanors or minor crimes," Nutter said before the signing. "The result: Families have been permanently separated."
Now, holds will only apply when ICE has a judicial warrant for someone convicted of a violent felony.
In the past, an ICE hold detainer request could be issued whenever someone with questionable immigration status was arrested or charged by police with any crime. Police would then hold these individuals until they could be transferred to ICE custody.
Nutter's executive order specifically states that no one in city custody will be detained for an ICE hold unless they are convicted of a first- or second-degree violent felony.
Members of several immigrant groups stated that they believe the executive order will end all ICE holds, since it is unclear whether ICE would ever serve a judicial warrant.
ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas did not comment on that specific issue.
"The identification and removal of criminal offenders is ICE’s highest priority. ICE has implemented clear priorities that focus on convicted criminals and other priority individuals. ICE sets priorities and places detainers on individuals arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous individuals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities," Navas said in an email.