About this petition
This summer, Philadelphia should join the growing number of cities and states around the country that have demanded an end to the controversial practice of turning local police records over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – essentially turning community safety officers into immigration agents.
In Philadelphia the Mayor, Court system, and District Attorney have an agreement that lets ICE access Philadelphia police arrest records through a database called PARS (Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System). PARS lists the country of origin of all people in police custody, and ICE uses this system to identify “deportable” immigrants.
It may seem harmless at first, but an individual that is in police custody merely for a traffic violation -- or as a result of language miscommunication or other mistake that never results in criminal charges -- can be deported because of PARS! Even if that person has lived in Philly for decades, has U.S. citizen children or family members, and has been a contributing, tax-paying member of their community.
Here’s the problem: the basis of community policing is trust, and Philly's partnership with ICE destroys that critical trust between local police and immigrant communities. When residents fear that they or their family members risk deportation through any contact with police, they will avoid reporting crimes, even as victims or witnesses. Additionally, they may avoid contact with any local government, undermining efforts to encourage equal access to city services for all residents. Human rights issues aside, everyone's public safety is compromised when communities do not feel safe reporting crimes and cooperating with police.
Immigrants have been central to reversing the trend of Philadelphia’s declining population, increasing entrepreneurship and revitalizing many neighborhoods. The City of Philadelphia has created policies aimed to make the city welcoming to immigrants and capitalize on their promise. However, this controversial data-sharing with ICE will undermine these efforts and threaten the city's future growth.
Tell Philadelphia's leaders to end the agreement with ICE when it expires on August 31, 2011 - sign this petition and share it on Facebook!
End the PARS contract
Dear Mayor Michael Nutter, Judge Marsha Neifield, and District Attorney Seth Williams:
I am writing you as a resident of Philadelphia concerned about public safety and our city's future.
I believe that giving agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) access to the arrest information from the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) decreases safety in our communities. This is because people in immigrant communities are afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation. Lack of trust between local police and communities means that crimes go unreported and witnesses are afraid to come forward. Convictions are harder, or impossible, for prosecutors to obtain. Women are afraid to report abuse for fear of being deported.
In addition, this cooperation between the police and ICE increases the risk of racial profiling and raises serious constitutional concerns. Because ICE is notified upon arrest of an individual, and not conviction, officers can arrest individuals they suspect are deportable without just cause. Once placed in deportation proceedings individuals have little chance of seeking justice, as the constitution is presumed to no longer apply and legal counsel can be impossible to access. Detention is often long and at a remote location far from family and community ties, all of which further erodes trust between police and immigrant communities.
Across the country cities, states, and members of congress have raised serious concerns about the “Secure Communities” program, which is very similar to the PARS agreement. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote a letter to Obama asking for a moratorium on the Secure Communities program. Rep Lofgren from CA has called for a national investigation of ICE and the Secure Communities program due to ongoing misinformation, and lack of transparency. The Department of Homeland Security has recently admitted to serious problems with ICE's "Secure Communities" agreements with states or local governments like Philadelphia's, and issued a statement that yet-undetermined changes must be made for the programs to be legal and effective.
Furthermore, in the past few months, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York have demanded cancellation of their agreements with ICE. A growing number of cities including San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Obama's home town of Chicago, oppose partnership with ICE, noting it as counterproductive to the goals of local law enforcement and local government. Though ICE is now claiming that the “Secure Communities” program is mandatory, PARS is not. In fact, it expires on August 31st. I write to ask that you not renew this dangerous program.
The safety of all Philadelphians depends on people trusting the police enough to come forward and report crimes and to be willing to testify in court. A program that damages the community’s trust in the police makes all of us less safe. It also makes the city less attractive to the many immigrant communities that have significantly contributed to Philadelphia's economic and cultural growth.
I therefore am asking you to end the PARS agreement, so that Philadelphia fulfill its promise to become a truly welcoming, global city.