DHS Deportation Program Meets with Resistance from mayor of Philadelphia


Michael Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, reduced his cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration-enforcement efforts in April 2014. He accused agents of aggressively targeting for deportation undocumented immigrants who led otherwise law-abiding lives.

He received phone calls from DHS officials and was even paid a visit by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Their idea, to support a new DHS program that aims to work with cities to deport undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes and pose a national threat – but take action against virtually no one else.

Nutter has not agreed to this. He applauded Johnson in a recent interview but said the city is “articulating areas of concern we have with regard to the new program.’’

The problems arise from a revolt against DHS’s enforcement of immigration laws. Johnson scrapped the Secure Communities program, under which DHS asked police to hold immigrants it wanted to deport for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release from custody. More than 350 communities had ended or dialed back their participation, citing legal and civil liberties concerns.

DHS is now encountering similar challenges as it has a new program to replace Secure Communities. The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which began July 2. Many pro-immigrant groups still disagree with the program, under which DHS will still coordinate with police to deport illegal immigrants but will mostly seek to be notified before they are released from custody, rather than having undocumented individuals held beyond their scheduled release.

Jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, which has the fourth-largest police force, is debating with the issue at a time of changing demographics. The City of Los Angeles will not be participating in the PEP program, as Los Angeles County is participating. DHS says that more than 30 of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies have indicated a willingness to work with the agency on the program.

Meanwhile, officials in New York City, which has the nation’s largest police department, said only that they are still in talks with DHS. But the city’s policy severely limits its cooperation with ICE detainers, saying they must be accompanied by a federal warrant.