In a victory for activists, Mayor Kenney met Monday with immigrants’ rights advocates and protesters who recently tried to shut down a local office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Erika Almiron, executive director of the immigrants’ advocacy organization Juntos, said her group’s leaders, the mayor, and “Occupy ICE” activists discussed a controversial city database that shares arrest and court information with ICE.
But Kenney did not tell the attendants whether he would cut off access to the database, known as the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, or PARS.
“They did not give us a decision today,” said Almiron. “But we were told ‘soon.’ ”
Ending the information-sharing agreement is one of the top demands by activists who set up an encampment outside an ICE building at Eighth and Cherry Streets last week. They’ve also called for ICE to be abolished.
Almiron said immigrants at the meeting told Kenney how they have been impacted by PARS.
“We had a lot of community members and leaders who were able to tell him firsthand what their experiences have been,” she said. “They said, ‘We supported you because we believed in you, but we need you to do more.’ And those things, I think, hit him. … He was visibly upset.”
Juntos had been scheduled to meet with aides from Kenney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs on this date for several weeks, Almiron said, but “we were told [Monday] morning that the mayor will be coming.” She said she invited two ICE protesters to the meeting.
Deana Gamble, a spokeswoman for Kenney, said “the meeting with Juntos, community members, and the Office of Immigrant Affairs was scheduled several weeks ago, and the mayor’s participation was confirmed” Monday.
She added that Juntos hosted the 6 p.m. meeting, and that the Kenney administration just learned Monday that protesters would attend as well. Juntos supports the ICE activists’ goals, but did not organize the encampments.
Kenney came under fire from progressives last week after police destroyed the anti-ICE camp in Center City. A city councilwoman said the Police Department’s response was “heavy-handed,” while a Democratic ward leader said it almost constituted “a threat to civil liberties.”
Gamble said Kenney could not “allow individuals to create a threat to public safety by blocking access to a building and setting up permanent encampments.” After the camp was raided, the activists moved to City Hall, where they remain.
The Monday meeting between Kenney and immigrants’ rights advocates, which also included lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, was closed to the public.
The contract that allows ICE to access to the PARS database ends Aug. 31. Gamble said, “We do not expect the mayor to make a decision until August” on whether to renew it.