Philadelphia, PA – Just days after #AbolishICE activists stormed City Hall and blockaded the stairwells in an attempt to get to the mayor’s office, the city of Philadelphia has announced it will not renew a decade-long information sharing agreement with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).
“I cannot in good conscience allow the agreement to continue,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"We're not going to provide them with information so they can go out and round people up," he added.
"If I could abolish ICE, I would. But we can abolish this contract, and we are,” Kenney said.
The mayor made his announcement in a ceremony room at City Hall filled with anti-ICE demonstrators after weeks of protests at the Philadelphia ICE service center and City Hall, during which pro-immigration protesters have repeatedly clashed with the police tasked with protecting the facilities.
Department of Homeland Security Spokeswoman Katie Waldman said Philadelphia’s decision was “needlessly compromising public safety” and “an irresponsible decision that results in the city harboring criminal aliens.”
“Sanctuary city policies make American communities like Philadelphia less safe by putting the rights of criminal aliens over the safety and security of American citizens,” Waldman said in a statement, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Despite the misguided action taken by Philadelphia today, DHS will continue to work to remove illegal aliens and uphold public safety.”
In June, the mayor celebrated the federal court victory that affirmed Philadelphia’s standing as a sanctuary city.
“All of us have ancestors who were once immigrants. All of us,” Kenney said.
The mayor said he believed ICE was abusing the PARS database. PARS is an acronym for a real-time computer database of arrested individuals that is operated by Philadelphia and shared with ICE because of a contractual agreement, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Kenney said he was worried ICE was using the PARS database “in inappropriate ways,” and accused the federal agency of conducting investigations of illegal immigrants who had not broken any other laws.
However, the PARS database doesn’t actually collect any information on an individual’s immigration status. It only includes the social security number and country of origin, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The mayor said the fear and distrust created by ICE discouraged crime victims and witnesses in immigrant communities from cooperating with law enforcement.
Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel Pratt notified ICE in writing of the PARS cancellation on Thursday. The actual contractual agreement between the two entities will not conclude until Aug. 31.
He said in the termination letter that the immigration agency had “created the false perception that the city is willing to be an extension of ICE."
Pratt told ICE that that the decision to discontinue the working relationship was in line with the Philadelphia mayor’s “Welcoming City” policies, “which reflect the principle that our city is safer, healthier, and more inviting.”
Kenney claimed ICE had been wrongly using the database to target people who were listed with foreign countries of origin.
However, the city was not able to point to any specific examples of the database information being misused, FOX News reported.
ICE officials told FOX News that the agency had not breached its agreement with Philadelphia for usage of the database in any way, neither by racial profiling nor by accessing information without the city's approval.
Philadelphia was already engaging in very limited cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials because of its “sanctuary city” status. The city has refused to release inmates to ICE without a judicial warrant, according to FOX News.
Calls by Democratic lawmakers to abolish ICE altogether fizzled earlier this month in the nation’s capital when the GOP members of Congress called their bluff and brought the matter to the U.S. House of Representatives floor for a vote on a resolution expressing support for the agency.
The measure passed, with Democratic members of Congress failing to go on record in opposition to ICE, FOX News reported.