Since Trump's election, despite pressure over its sanctuary city policies, Philadelphia has been standing firm. On Thursday, the city's new top prosecutor went even further by creating a new position specifically to help undocumented immigrants navigate the legal system.
"Together, we will ensure that all people are treated fairly by the justice system regardless of their immigration status," Krasner said of the new role of Immigration Counsel to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, which will be filled by attorney Caleb Arnold. "This is also part of our overall effort to protect the most vulnerable and ensure they are able to participate as witnesses or complainants in the criminal justice system.”
Arnold's job will be to "build relationships with immigrant communities to ensure that witnesses and victims feel safe participating in the process regardless of immigration status," the office said. "They will also advise prosecutors on minimizing the impact of criminal convictions on immigration status, especially for low-level offenders who pose no threat to public safety."
The role mirrors an innovation previously pioneered in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where Kings County Prosecutor Eric Gonzalez created a similar position to prevent collateral consequences of convictions." Gonzalez was in Philly with Krasner to announce the adoption of the tactic in Philadelphia, and said it had yielded positive results in Brooklyn.
"Our special counsels advised in over 200 cases so far to reach immigration-neutral outcomes," Gonzalez said in a statement. "Greater equity does not jeopardize public safety."
Mayor Jim Kenney has staunchly stood behind Philadelphia's sanctuary city policies of not communicating with federal immigration authorities or cooperating with certain types of enforcements, which he has previously defended as "practices that keep our communities safe and provide victims and witnesses the security to come forward.”
Federal officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have targeted Philly and other sanctuary cities for additional raids and arrests since Trump took the White House. A lawsuit by the DOJ to block some $1.5-2 million of federal grants to punish Philly is currently pending appeal.
But Krasner's announcement earned praise from local immigrant community activists.
Erika Almiron, Executive Director of Juntos said in a statement that involvement with the criminal justice system often led to " deportation proceedings due to the overcharges given by previous administrations and overzealous former DAs who believed more in punishment rather than restorative justice."
Almiron said she hoped to work with Krasner and Arnold to ensure that the "threat of ICE is purged from all aspects of our criminal justice system."