As ICE raids have targeted Central American refugees in numerous states over the past several days, city leaders are responding with pro-immigrant legislation and messages to allay widespread fears in the undocumented immigrant community.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, incoming Mayor Jim Kenney has signed an executive order “that rescinds the city’s participation in a controversial program set up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
“On his first day in office, newly elected Mayor Kenney reaffirmed that the City of Philadelphia is in fact the City of Brotherly Love,” Erika Almiron, director of the Philadelphia-based non-profit Juntos, said in a press release. “As ICE raids sew new levels of fear in our communities, Mayor Kenney is making sure local officials have nothing to do with it.”
Kenney’s move does away with Philadelphia’s participation in ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which was established by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in 2014 as a replacement for the Secure Communities program. The program uses biometric data to prioritize the deportation of detained immigrants who have been “convicted of an offense listed under the DHS civil immigration enforcement priorities, has intentionally participated in an organized criminal gang to further the illegal activity of the gang or poses a danger to national security,” per ICE’s website.
In New Haven, Connecticut, numerous city leaders — ranging from the Mayor to the Police Chief — are taking important steps to protect the most vulnerable of the city, particularly the children of immigrants.
From The New Haven Independent:
If federal immigration officials come knocking to seize and deport undocumented immigrants, New Haven police, school and city officials can’t stop them — but they won’t help them, either.
Mayor Toni Harp, Chief Dean Esserman and Superintendent Garth Harries delivered that message Wednesday as they joined 100 immigrant-rights protesters Wednesday afternoon at Grand and Ferry Streets to rally against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) nationwide push to deport undocumented Central American immigrants.
“New Haven police officers, school district employees and other city workers do not and will not act to enforce federal immigration law. Those who represent this city act in support of all residents regardless of documentation and immigration status,” Harp declared.
The first reported raids were Sunday, in Georgia, Maryland and Texas, with around 121 rounded up. Lawyers have since managed to stop and appeal the deportation of 12 of those people.
Remembering how similar raids tore apart families and devastated the Fair Haven neighborhood in 2007, New Haven’s Unidad Latina en Accion and Junta for Progressive Action sprang into action early this week, circulating information about immigrants’ rights when apprehended by immigration officials. They asked for the documents to be circulated through public schools.
CT Immigrant Rights Alliance in New Haven protesting recent ICE raids targeting those who fled Central America pic.twitter.com/hFDy8DDgdr
— Matt McFarland (@MattMcFarland3) January 6, 2016
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp talks to a Univision affiliate at a rally denouncing ICE raids in the US #NHV pic.twitter.com/DPgyAdho5c
— Esteban L. Hernandez (@EstebanHRZ) January 6, 2016
New Haven mayor “no city official will be an agent for ICE” pic.twitter.com/dv5ESWrYD4 — Kica Matos (@KicaMatos) January 6, 2016
New Haven rally – ICE is not welcome in New Haven! pic.twitter.com/wIlcr7s52i — Kica Matos (@KicaMatos) January 6, 2016
Chief Esserman. We are NOT the federal immigration police. We are NH police & we respect our community . pic.twitter.com/YBkiMvf0jq — Kica Matos (@KicaMatos) January 6, 2016
School Superintendent Harries, no school official will be an agent for ICE. We will protect our children pic.twitter.com/HaI2BXmjkz — Kica Matos (@KicaMatos) January 6, 2016
The Obama Administration’s controversial decision to raid homes in search of Central American refugees for deportation has been met with derision by immigrant advocates and national leaders alike. The most up-to-date information on the raids is available here.