PFUN Rocks!

Hearing 6

On Wednesday March 12, 2o14, 1Love Movement, as part of the Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) held a public hearing with the support and leadership of City Council on the devastating effects of local police collaboration with ICE, specifically the use of ICE holds or detainers in our criminal justice and prison systems that funnel people into deportation proceedings and exile from our local communities.

Spearheaded by Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez, Councilwoman Blackwell, and Councilman Kenney, the immigrant community was heard on how this toxic relationship breaks families apart and goes against our City’s principles of justice, fairness, and equality. And in a City where 1 in 5 people are formerly incarcerated, and where we hold dear our principles of redemption, rehabilitation and second chances, we cannot allow ICE to break families apart when meaningful re-entry and re-integration is critical for our community’s survival in the long run. In unity, PFUN called for an end to all ICE holds in the City of Philadelphia.

For more updates on the hearings please see PFUN’s Press Release.

We have much more work to do to, but for right now, we want to take the time to send so much love and respect to our PFUN partners: Juntos, Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and New Sanctuary Movement. Throughout the last 9 months of building this coalition, we have cried, hugged, cussed, screamed, and challenged each other in the realest way to understand the diverse and complicated experiences of the communities we all work with and come from.

Built on years of prior work together in our communities, and through an intentional undertaking of creating shared principles and accountability processes within our coalition, we were able to stand together in unity in the face of social and political divisions that pressure us to throw each other under the bus. The deportation system we’re up against has set its own labels for us to determine who is deserving and who is not. They call us “skilled” or “unskilled”, “documented” or “undocumented”, “educated” or “uneducated”, “criminal” or “non-criminal”. The fact that we refuse to be divided, and instead stand with each other as people and families deserving of dignity, respect and justice – period – is victory in itself. We are united and unwavering in our commitment to this movement for the human rights of ALL of our communities, and in this particular moment that means ending all ICE Holds. We love you PFUN! And thank you so much to all the organizations and groups that have supported us throughout this campaign so far. ❤

TESTIMONIES 

To read all the incredible testimonies from the day, go to PICC’s website here.

And here are 1Love’s Testimonies:

  • Mia-lia Kiernan, 1Love Movement: The links between mass incarceration and mass deportation
  • Naroen Chhin, 1 Love Movement: Cambodian refugee experience of incarceration and deportation
  • Nancy Nguyen, BPSOS Delaware Valley & 1Love Advisory Board: School violence, refugee and immigrant youth experience across generations
  • Quyen Dinh, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center: The Southeast Asian community nationwide, and the federal immigration laws that affect us

For press on the event please see:

Newsworks: Philly moving to limit police cooperation with ICE

Philadelphia Inquirer: City to end some police cooperation with ICE

And to see the fierceness of Philly City Councilmembers in the face of anti-immigrant testimony at the hearing, check out this video. Go Councilman Kenney and Councilman Jones!

Philly rules! ❤

Community-Led Coalition Calls for an End to All ICE Holds

Philadelphia Family Unity Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 14, 2014

Philadelphia—On Wednesday, March 12th, City Council held a historic public hearing on Philadelphia’s compliance with ICE holds, which are non-mandatory requests from the federal immigration enforcement office to local Philadelphia law enforcement to hold someone who should otherwise be released. Immigrant leaders, advocates, and allies took the stand before Council’s Public Safety Committee to discuss the devastating impact of ICE holds on immigrant communities in Philadelphia and to call on the Mayor to work with community organizations to draft a new policy that ends all ICE holds.

“We have an opportunity here to sit on the side of hope, of love and of justice by creating a policy that does not create divisions among our families, one that can begin to rebuild trust between local police and the community and one that will ultimately create a better Philadelphia for all us,” said Executive Director of Juntos, Erika Almiron.

In testimony presented during the hearing, Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick announced that the Mayor is drafting a policy that would end the majority of ICE holds in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN)  welcomes the Mayor’s initiative in drafting this policy, which would be a huge step forward for the city of Philadelphia, and is grateful for recent opportunities to meet with officials from the Mayor’s administration to provide input on the devastating impact of ICE holds on immigrant communities.

According to Director Resnick, the proposed policy has not yet been finalized and “the administration is still open to discussion,” an announcement that was met with cheers from the audience in the hearing. Following the hearing, PFUN invited the Mayor’s office to meet with the coalition in the coming weeks to discuss concerns that remain about the proposed policy.  As it stands, the policy would continue to use ICE holds against some individuals based on their criminal history.  This type of complicated carve-out contradicts the city’s stance on redemption and rehabilitation for individuals leaving prison, creates confusion and mistakes in the implementation of the policy, and subjects the city to costly liability for unjustified imprisonment. Constitutional concerns with ICE holds will continue even if only one ICE hold remains. “The collaboration between local police and ICE has resulted in fear and distrust in immigrant communities and led to the perception that local police are actively seeking to enforce federal immigration laws. The proposed policy will also continue to send a message to immigrant communities that asking for police protection could subject them or those that they care about to deportation”, said Tasha Kelemen, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC).

Members of PFUN have been involved in ongoing work with the city for a number of years about the possibility of enacting a policy that would end ICE holds and begin to intervene in the  mass deportation of Philadelphia residents. “In our experience of doing work in coalition, we’ve found that policies often divide immigrant communities along lines of legal status, economic status, education, criminal history, gender identity, sexual orientation, family structure, and marital status, as well as other categories. We have worked hard in Philadelphia to build across communities innovatively in the face of these divisions to create a more understanding and collaborative immigrant community in the city,” said Mia-lia Kiernan, community organizer with 1Love Movement.

PFUN continues to ask the Mayor to adopt a policy that reflects the work that has been done to bridge differences between communities, and honors our city’s stance on rehabilitation, re-entry and second chances. The coalition is inviting Mayor Nutter to meet with immigrant leaders and community members to listen to concerns about the harm caused by divisive policies before taking further action on his proposed executive order. “Immigrants must have a place at the negotiation table with the Nutter Administration to express how ICE holds devastate our families and communities every day and to create a better policy,” says New Sanctuary Movement community organizer Blanca Pacheco.

PFUN would like to thank the following organizations for supporting the long campaign that led to this historic day and for ensuring that a new policy on ICE holds reflects the experiences of Philadelphia’s immigrant communities: AFRICOM, ACANA, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Newark, Asian Americans United, Boat People SOS Delaware Valley, Concilio, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Council on American Islamic Relations, Coalition of Labor Union Women, FAVOR International, Fight for Drivers Licenses, HIAS Pennsylvania, Media Mobilizing Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), The Philadelphia Student Union, Women Organized Against Rape and other organizations across the city.

Copies of testimony submitted to city council can be found at: http://paimmigrant.org/resources/PFUN-hearing-testimony

PFUN members: 1Love Movement, JUNTOS, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.

Testimony: Mia-lia Kiernan

Philadelphia City Council | Hearing: Police and ICE Collaboration | 3/12/2014

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Good morning Councilmembers, my name is Mia-lia. I am the National Organizer of 1Love Movement. 1Love was born out of a detention and deportation crisis in the Cambodian-American community in Philly in 2010 that targeted those with past criminal convictions. We are now a national network that focuses on breaking down the harmful intersection of our local criminal justice and federal deportation systems.

Our work is centered on the belief that families belong together, and that removing people from our communities through deportation threatens our survival as people. We also work under the belief that mandatory and institutionalized punishment is not our route, as a society, to addressing the root causes of violence in our communities. It is not our route to community-led and victim-centered healing. It is not our route to individual accountability and transformation. And it is not our route to re-building our traumatized communities.

We view mandatory deportation as destructive, as it denies us of our individual and community capacity as human beings to grow, change, and heal.

The context and reality we are living in is this:

  • Roughly 1 out of every 100 adults in the US is behind bars.
  • The United States represents only 5 percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
  • People of color represent 30 percent of our country’s population, but account for 60 percent of those who are imprisoned.
  • 65 million people in the United States have criminal records.
  • And 1 in 5 people in Philadelphia are formerly incarcerated.

This reality has led leaders in our City to push reform, legislation and programs that consider the complexity and specific context of individuals and communities in relation to our criminal justice system. Our City Administration, Law Enforcement agencies, and City Council, have enacted policies that established a Mayor’s Office of Re-Integration Services, the Ban the Box Bill, the DA’s SAM Program, alternative sentencing, job creation for formerly incarcerated people, a Veteran’s Court to consider the links between PTSD and criminal activity, and many others. These initiatives are our City’s stance against mandatory and blanket judgments of our communities, and the life-time and collateral consequences of criminal convictions.

Mayor Nutter stated when signing the Ban the Box Bill, This legislation will make it easier for ex-offenders to be judged by their abilities as opposed to their past. Making available employment options for those with criminal histories contributes to the overall safety and quality of life in Philadelphia. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Bill Hart, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Re-integration services (RISE) states: “The fact is that when people with criminal convictions succeed, we all succeed…With more than 200,000 Philadelphian’s facing the collateral consequences of their convictions, we must all do a better job at recognizing this special challenge.”

Deportation is one of those collateral consequences for a large portion of our Philadelphia community.

The work we’ve done in our City to steer our criminal justice system towards our grounded values and beliefs, and the work that has been done across many cities in the US in the same way, has forced leaders at the national level to take a stand for our communities.

US Attorney General Holder spoke, on behalf of President Obama, about shifts being implemented across the Justice Department to better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation.

“These reforms – which are currently being implemented across the United States – will help to bring our criminal justice system in line with our most treasured values: of equality, opportunity, and justice under law…This vicious cycle – of poverty, criminality, and incarceration – traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities.  And many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems, rather than alleviate them… By examining cases individually, identifying effective alternatives to incarceration under certain circumstances, and providing the resources necessary for those currently in the criminal justice system – and those who are released from prison – to become productive, law-abiding members of society, we can break this cycle.  And we can improve public safety, forge safer neighborhoods, begin to address the root causes of criminality – and make smarter decisions on how to prevent it.”

1Love Movement, the Philadelphia Family Unity Network, and families and communities affected by incarceration and deportation in Philadelphia ask that we take this next step to address ICE and police collaboration with our values front and center, and not engage in harmful divisions based on criminal history. We ask that our City’s deeply rooted values of redemption, rehabilitation, second chances and reintegration be applied and fought for, for ALL residents of Philadelphia – instead of allowing a mandatory, indiscriminate federal deportation system to subject people to double punishment, directly DISintegrating certain populations of our Philadelphia community by breaking families apart. We call for an end to ALL ICE Holds. Thank you.

Testimony: Quyen Dinh

Philadelphia City Council | Hearing: Police and ICE Collaboration | 3/12/14

My name is Quyen Dinh, I am the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center in Washington DC. Deportation has caused the widespread separation of Southeast Asian American families and cross-generational trauma for Southeast Asian American communities in Philadelphia and across the country. Since 1998, well over 13,000 Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans have received final deportation orders, including many legal permanent residents. In most of these cases, the individuals who were deported came to the U.S. as infants and toddlers, fleeing the conflicts in Southeast Asia as refugees with their families. Deportation in these and other immigrant communities soared after 1996, when Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). The laws created mandatory and automatic deportation consequences for a wide and poorly defined range of criminal convictions and sentences, and eliminated the ability of immigration judges to weigh the complex facts of each case. The laws were also made to be retroactive, meaning that noncitizens could be deported for certain crimes even if they were committed before the passage of the law. In every case, individuals serve their sentences through the criminal justice system, and many are in the process of turning their lives around when they are put into deportation proceedings.

Southeast Asians in the U.S. are deported on the basis of a criminal charge at three to four times the rate of other ethnic groups. Criminal deportation today in Southeast Asian American communities is an echo of past trauma and struggle. Southeast Asian communities came to the U.S. as refugees fleeing the U.S. war in Vietnam, its secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia, and the genocide that followed. Since 1975, an estimated 1.2 million refugees were resettled from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, the largest wave of refugees in U.S. history. Southeast Asian refugees arrived in the U.S. suffering from high rates of trauma and PTSD. A 2005 study of Cambodians in Long Beach, California, found that 62% of adults exhibited signs of PTSD and 51% suffered from major depression. Mental health issues were rarely diagnosed and even more rarely treated, and they impaired parents’ ability to care for their children.

Many Southeast Asian youth, especially in the 1980s, had little support in schools or access to culturally or linguistically appropriate services, and many experienced racism and bullying. As a result of these challenges, some also turned to local gangs as their only source of communal support and resources.  Today, high school completion rates for Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, and Vietnamese youth remain far below average. Youth who do not graduate from high school are much more likely to end up in prison, forming a school-to-prison pipeline for many youth of color. But the stakes are even higher for Southeast Asian youth without citizenship status, who go from prison to immigration detention before being deported.

Current immigration laws do not serve the interests of developing long-term social and human capital within our communities. We need to invest in strong public education and public health programs that support immigration families and provide opportunities for all young people to realize their potential. We need to invest in re-entry and rehabilitation programs for people who have already paid their debt to society and are already rebuilding their lives. We need policies that make our communities stronger, not policies that create trauma and destabilization by deporting people who are fathers, mothers, business owners, employees, and friends.  The proposed laws to reject detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Philadelphia jails will interrupt one piece of this deportation pipeline. We support the policy, and urge the City Council to protect ALL immigrants from ICE holds.

Testimony: Nancy Nguyen

Philadelphia City Council | Hearing: Police and ICE Collaboration | 3/12/2014

My name is Nancy Nguyen and I am currently leading BPSOS-Delaware Valley, a community-based organization which for the past 13 years has provided services, and advocated and organized with Vietnamese American immigrant and refugees in Philadelphia and South Jersey. I join the dozens of voices today, representing a myriad of communities to impart on you, the urgency of our need to end all ICE detainers in Philadelphia.

End ALL ICE detainers in Philadelphia. They pose an unnecessary, immediate and lasting threat to our communities and in particular, to our youth.

This is a story that many of you will remember: on December 3rd, 2009 nearly 30 Asian immigrant students were attacked by their peers at South Philadelphia High School. That struggle became national news. In the immediate aftermath of that biased violence, there was a clear failure on the part of the school and school district administration to address the violence. The families of the students weren’t reached out to – no phone calls, no letters, no conversations about what had happened to their children.

In the face of this absolute absence of responsibility, these students had few choices. Some considered returning to school in silence – which is what they were asked to do by the principal, with empty promises towards their “safety”. And some wanted to return to school with vengeance.

However, the seeds of change had been planted. With the support of youth and community organizers, many of whom are in this room, they turned to a third choice – to catalyze their fear, anger, pain, hurt into a non-violent protest of their conditions. They boycotted the school and demanded that the School District make our schools safe for all students.

In the ensuing weeks, months and years, Asian and Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee adults came out to support these youth in our rallies and our protests; adults who as youth had faced the same issues of relentless biased violence, and a School District that refused to take responsibility. These adults were essentially facing the younger versions of themselves. Except that in their day – in the 80s and 90s – there were no organizations, mentors, or youth organizers to present this choice to them. So many dropped out of school to avoid the violence; or they fought back. In fighting back, they were labeled as aggressors and criminalized, and went through the School-to-Prison Pipeline, like many youth of color. And decades later, many of them would see their experience as immigrant and refugee youth as the School-to-Deportation Pipeline.

A generation later we understand the long term effects of unjust policies like zero tolerance, ICE detainers, mass incarceration and deportation – we are now seeing how this web of policies can trap youth forever, and into their adulthood. The truth is: Whether or not the school-to-deportation pipeline takes 20 years or 3 months to complete its run, the end result is the same: families shattered and community members taken without due process.

We stand here with long view of history – we cannot stand for another generation of immigrant and refugee youth to be caught in these unfair and unjust policies. All policies are written statements of how we want to live in our cities, and our communities. Mayor of Philadelphia, City Council Members and other leaders: we come to you with a vision for our policies to be written with the goal to keep families and communities together. The first step is to end all ICE detainers in Philadelphia. Thank you.