What Happens in A Day Without Immigrants?
Roughly 100 people gathered at Juntos to protest ICE raids across the country. The protest was titled, ‘A Day without Immigrants,’ to highlight the impact of immigrant communities across the country.
“Every raid that ICE does and every deportation that occurs as a result is a deliberate and violent attack against our communities,” said Olivia Vazquez, Juntos organizer.
The group gathered to share testimonies of what it means to live as an undocumented immigrant and the vital force that immigrants are within the community. And while Philadelphia s a sanctuary city, the picture Juntos painted of a sanctuary city is not a simple one.
“The word Sanctuary means a place of safety or refuge. It is hypocritical of us to say that our city embodies that. Not only because ICE is still out in our streets deporting our people but also due to the continued practice of policies that target and criminalize our black and brown communities, which are only exasperated now by a Trump presidency,” said Olivia Vázquez, Juntos organizer.
Citing police the over-policing of communities, a stigma due to political campaigns and specifically mentioning Trump, the organizers shared they did not feel Philadelphia was a true sanctuary city.
"Just last week, we saw large scale raids happening throughout the country and although they have not happened in Philadelphia, we need to be ready when they do. Philadelphia is a sanctuary city yet, and we know we have a lot more work to do this why we will continue to empower our communities by educating them on their rights," said Vasquez.
But the fear of ICE raids isn't unfounded, in fact, just across the bridge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has started to complete raids.
When asked about ICE raids in New Jersey, Gov. Christie’s defended recent raids in the state saying, “The laws that are in effect right now have to be enforced,” on CNN’s State of the Union.
Philadelphia’s current status as a “sanctuary” or “4th amendment” city puts it in a particular position as Mayor Kenney maintains that he will not change the city’s policy on ICE detainers in the city.
Despite the feeling that Philadelphia isn't a sanctuary city, the lack of raids in the community may be overshadowed by a bigger problem: Philadelphia's 'stop and frisk' policies.
Another group in Philadelphia, the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, has continued its work for immigrants to fight against ICE raids, including creating a 24-hour emergency hotline people can call to report a raid.
“While we brace ourselves for more aggressive tactics from a federal agency that is now emboldened by the racist and xenophobic speech of Donald Trump, we will continue to empower our communities by educating them on their rights; on not opening the door to ICE and on how allies can help by documenting not only immigration raids but also police stops that they see happening on the streets,” continued Almiron. “But from what we’ve seen no group benefits from citizenship. We just want people to be able to live.”
These policies, such as “stop and frisk,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to police database PARS (the police database system), and a lack of diversion programs have been mentioned by the group as the avenues that add undocumented people into the criminal justice system.
“As stop and frisk and the over-policing of black and brown neighborhoods continue within our city, it can never be truly called a sanctuary city,” said Erika Almiron, the Executive Director of Juntos, a social justice organization located in South Philadelphia.
The ACLU released a report in March of last year stating that the “stop and frisk” policy disproportionately detains black and Latino men and was a “widespread violation of both the consent decree and the rights of thousands of Philadelphians” the statement from the ACLU says.
"Our city of Philadelphia is known as a sanctuary city, but we as Philadelphians know that this is not fully true. Ice has never stopped roaming the streets barging into our homes and separating families from loved ones. There are still cops who criminalize all people of color," says Olivia Ponce, Juntos organizer and mother of a DACA recipient.
Not only are the rates of the stops high, they also have been found to be unreasonable by the ACLU.
“The City reports even higher rates for the Second Quarter, 62% of all stops and 53% of all frisks were without reasonable suspicion,” the reports continues.
In light of these numbers, there is also concern over the a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get ID's in the city. Though Juntos organizers have expressed it could be beneficial, they also expressed it could be just another database ICE may get access to.
With so many ways to be tracked, and ICE raids increasing, it appears Juntos has indeed has more work to do.
The next protest, set to be much larger in scale, is due on May 1st, a day known as International Worker's Day.