Immigrant organization claims to have inside info on ICE gone ‘rogue’
When the city of Philadelphia ended an agreement to honor the petitions from ICE to keep immigrants under custody of the police while they checked their immigration status, the decision was deemed a victory by local civil rights organizations.
This meant that immigrants who came in contact with the law for something as simple as a traffic check would no longer be subject to scrutiny in terms of immigration status, and potential deportation, like many before them.
In the six months since more than 200 municipalities across the country have adopted similar policies limiting the interactions between ICE and local police departments.
But now the same organizations that pushed for the end of the collaboration are denouncing a shift in ICE’s tactics to continue to meet their deportation quota.
They argue that ICE is becoming increasingly aggressive in expanding its reach and has incurred further civil rights violations. They have reason to believe so because, they say, they have inside information.
In a press conference that took place Thursday in Philadelphia, the immigrant organization Juntos made public two anonymous letters they received within the last five weeks that seem to confirm what the organizations suspected — that there continues to be collaboration with ICE and the criminal justice system in certain locales in Pennsylvania.
“I am writing to you from the Philadelphia Immigration Office at 1600 Callowhill Street,” reads one of the letters sent to the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington D.C.
The letter goes on to report that an ICE supervisor performed a joint operation with the police “to clean up the illegal Mexican population” in Norristown, a municipality 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
“The operation was meant to target only those Mexicans that were charged with a crime, but the operation resulted in passengers in these cars being arrested by immigration,” reads the letter.
Another letter denounces collaboration between ICE and jails in Montgomery, Chester and Bucks Counties.
It claims that every time a person with a foreign name, mainly Latino, is released immigration is called and given a two-hour notice.
“As they walk out, immigration arrests them. Everyone at the jails knows this and do not want to post bail (for those arrested) because they are scared,” reads the letter. “There are people whose cases were dismissed and immigration was still called and arrested them as they were going home.”
Thomas Decker, ICE’s local Field Office Director, was invited to the press conference but didn’t attend.
Pilar Molina, a member from Juntos was not shy in sending a message to ICE.
“Your rogue tactics will not be tolerated in our communities. Practices that rely heavily on racial profiling harm our families and must be ended,” she said. “We will not stop until you are out of our communities and our families are safe.”
The complaints have taken place as the immigrant community keeps waiting for President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to address the situation of some undocumented immigrants in the nation, a measure that was originally supposed to take place by the end of summer but was later postponed until after the elections.
“Our community has been asked to wait for President Obama to act on relief from deportations until the time is politically right,” said Erika Almirón, executive director of Juntos. “Meanwhile, ICE agents are again eroding trust between communities and local government with new tactics that violate our civil and human rights.”