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It’s well known that immigrants in Philadelphia, whether they are documented or undocumented, have civil rights. Asserting this notion, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order earlier this year telling the Philadelphia Police Department to stop aiding federal immigration enforcement laws, ending the so-called “ICE holds.”

ICE, short for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a federal agency overseeing a myriad of border-related laws, including deportations. When Nutter signed the order earlier this year, CBS3′s Cherri Gregg explained that now “Philadelphia police will no longer hold undocumented immigrants for ICE officials unless the individual is being released following a first or second degree felony conviction and federal official obtain a warrant from a judge.”

Prior to Nutter’s executive action, local police could, and did, hold undocumented immigrants for ICE even after summary offenses like traffic violations.

Immigrant advocacy organization Juntos and the Philadelphia Family Unity Network are now promoting a PSA-style video educating Spanish-speaking immigrants of all statuses about their rights. “You have the right to not sign any papers without the presence or consent of a lawyer,” says the video, “and you have the right to an interpreter. You don’t have to open your door to the police or immigration if they don’t have a warrant.”

“All people have rights,” Juntos executive director Erika Almirón tells PhillyNow, “no matter what their immigration status.”

The Mayor deserves credit for his executive order earlier this year ending ICE holds in the Philadelphia Police Department. His commonsense approach to law enforcement in this regard does, however, bring up an uncomfortable question: If the Mayor is able to use an executive order to take a hands-off approach toward laws that aren’t his police department’s primary responsibility, like federal laws surrounding immigration, why can’t take this same type of swift executive action surrounding state laws like prohibitions against marijuana? Part of Nutter’s rationale for stopping city enforcement of federal laws was to “rebuild trust” between the police and immigrant communities. As of late, it seems that such bridges might also be built between police and people of color communities as a whole.

 

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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