Protesters ready as Nutter moves ahead with 'sanctuary' changes
For almost a month now, stakeholders in the immigrant community have been demanding a straight answer: Will Mayor Michael Nutter fast-track the changes to Philly’s ‘sanctuary city’ policy, or will he leave it up to mayor-elect Jim Kenney to decide?
The administration, once again, would not comment Thursday.
But after a two-hour closed-door meeting with the mayor, members of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia told AL DÍA that a new policy will be signed before Nutter leaves office in January.
On Wednesday, several pro-immigrant groups delivered a 48-hour deadline to the mayor’s office. If Nutter doesn’t agree to hold off on the changes, members of the interfaith group New Sanctuary Movement will perform a “civil action” at City Hall on Friday.
“To implement any policy that renews collaboration between Philadelphia police and ICE would undo the trust that the community has built in local law enforcement, a detriment to public safety for all those living in Philadelphia,” New Sanctuary Movement wrote in an email.
The current executive order, which Nutter signed into law 18 months ago, was hailed as a godsend to immigrants of every stripe. With few exceptions, it barred local law enforcement and prison officials from complying with detainer requests — a.k.a. ICE holds — for undocumented immigrants in the city’s custody.
To our knowledge, Nutter's sit-down with community stakeholders was the first meeting of its kind since last month when the changes were suddenly announced.
The group walked through the proposed changes. The biggest concern among the clergy was about the vague language of the new legislation. Most of the new clauses dealt with undocumented persons who had been convicted of violent felonies — except one stipulation that said any undocumented person in the city's custody deemed a "public safety" threat could be handed over to ICE following a detainer request.
“Our concern was that it would be based on suspicion rather than on concrete past history,” said Rev. Ruben Ortiz.
Ortiz said that the mayor “eased their concerns.” The new policy, Nutter reportedly told them, will maintain that any national security threat must be based on prior convictions of violent crimes.
Another controversial point is one that would allow the city’s managing director to determine anyone he considers a threat to public safety.
“Between the lines, there’s still no clarity. To me personally — I can’t speak on behalf of the board or anything — that’s kind of concerning. It’s subjective. Obviously nothing has changed this meeting. He’s still moving forward,” said Rev. Adan A. Mairena of West Kensington Ministries.
While the meeting provided some clarity, Mairena thinks the level of communication throughout this process has been insulting. “This all could have been avoided if they had communicated clearly,” he said.
One of the first questions the clergy members asked Nutter was “why now?” Mayor-elect will assume office in just three weeks. But more importantly, immigrant community leaders have been questioning whether these changes are healthy to with the state of the national dialogue about foreigners in the U.S. They cited the pig’s head thrown at the mosque recently. They cited Donald Trump's ongoing rhetoric.
“In 2014 when the change was made...the mayor followed through on his word to review his executive order, and he did so,” Ortiz said. “So that’s why the timing seems suspicious, and that’s why we’re here.”
Nutter promised to send community leaders the new draft of the executive order immediately.
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney confirmed Thursday that if the changes go forward he will stand by his original position and reverse them once he assumes office.