There are two things political observers at this moment in America and beyond understand about Philadelphia: via an executive order it became a Fourth Amendment city where local law enforcement officers wouldn’t cooperate with federal Immigration Customs Enforcement agents to subject undocumented immigrants to illegal searches and seizures; and it’s a city where undocumented immigrants, and their family and friends are so leery of federal ICE agents that a planned Cinco de Mayo celebration, the largest in the area, has been cancelled due to a fear of raids.
The canceling of Philadelphia’s Cinco de Mayo celebration sends a mixed message to the viewing world: here’s a city threatened with economic sanctions by the White House for being perceived as over-protective of immigrants, while the immigrants themselves don’t feel that much protected here, though the local government’s executive order, and the re-branding as a Fourth Amendment City, are gestures not lost on that population. However, the executive order, a local law, doesn’t hinder federal ICE agents from conducting their raids in silo.
The raids, which result in families being split apart and which a representative from ICE’s Philadelphia office said are lead driven and don’t target “aliens indiscriminately,” is why certain activists here – including Ms. Erika Almiron of Juntos, which is an immigrants’ rights organization – refuse to, as the Mayor does, describe Philadelphia as a Fourth Amendment city.
“The city of Philadelphia was never a sanctuary city because raids still happen, because police were still profiling black and brown folks.”
In February, at Juntos in South Philadelphia, where again I heard Ms. Almiron call for a true sanctuary city, the dozens of immigrants there wore melancholy on their faces. It was there that I noticed a sign held by a child which said “The Only ICE we want is Water Ice.”
Fear of raids of course extends beyond that small room in South Philadelphia. The canceling of an annual Cinco de Mayo event which attracts upwards of 15,000 folks speaks, indeed, to the incredible scope of fear felt by many.
And, because it’s federal agents doing the raiding, the local government has little power to mitigate it and soothe the fears of its residents. Indicative of the aforementioned is the fact that the Mayor of Philadelphia, after the story of the event cancellation went national, didn’t issue a statement of assurance to his constituents; not because he didn’t want to, but because he likely can’t protect them.
From the highest office in the land now emanates an agenda which appears uber adversarial to undocumented immigrants. This agenda goes beyond whether Philadelphia is a sanctuary city; it’s about whether America is truly a sanctuary for all or a place that rejects the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.