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September 29, 2017

Jim Kenney: Immigrants will distrust Philly police after ICE arrests

ICE agents arrested 107 undocumented immigrants as part of Operation 'Safe City'

Immigration Sanctuary Cities
Mayor Jim Kenney; Thom Carroll photo Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

In this file photo from Jan. 12, 2017, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney answers questions during an interview in his City Hall office.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney slammed a sweeping federal raid this week that ended in nearly 500 arrests of undocumented immigrants nationwide, including 107 in Philly.

In a statement, Kenney said the U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement operation, dubbed "Safe City," will only lead to heightened anxiety and distrust of law enforcement among the city's immigrant communities.

"Further, Operation ‘Safe City’ proves that our welcoming policies — for immigrants and non-immigrants alike — do not stop ICE from enforcing federal immigration law, as ICE has suggested in the past,” Kenney said.

Immigration officials arrested more people in Philadelphia this week than in any of the other nine municipalities included in the four-day operation, which ended on Wednesday. The operation targeted cities where ICE deportation officers were denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected violators of federal immigration law, as well as jurisdictions where ICE detainers were not honored.

Across the country, those arrested included 317 people with criminal convictions, 68 immigration fugitives, 104 people who had previously been deported and 18 known gang members or affiliates, ICE officials said.

But Kenney said such raids don't make cities any safer.

"The more you drive people underground, the less likely they are going to want to call police to report crime or to be witnesses," he said in a report Friday.

Sanctuary cities, like Philadelphia, refuse to collect information on residents' immigration status. The city only hands over detainees when ICE has a criminal warrant.

Although the U.S. is on pace to deport fewer people in the government's 2017 fiscal year than in 2016, The Washington Post reported Thursday that ICE arrests have increased by 43 percent since President Donald Trump took office.

"I think this is a political issue, this is Trump playing to his base, [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions playing to their base, to continue to divide this country and scare people," Kenney said. "It's all this culture war we are going through from the NFL on down."