PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia's district attorney said Wednesday that he will not support renewing a contract allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to Philadelphia's real-time arrest database.
The district attorney's statement comes as advocates have peppered Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's office with demands to end the contract that allows ICE access to the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, saying it makes immigrants less likely to report crimes. The contract expires at the end of August and in order to renew it at least two of the three stakeholders — the district attorney, city courts and the city — would have to vote in favor of continuing the contract.
"Let me be crystal clear: I will absolutely be a 'no' vote to provide additional access to PARS for ICE. The current arrangement shares information with ICE in a way that should not continue," District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a written statement. "Many immigrants are scared to participate in our criminal justice system because they are fearful that they or their loved ones will be deported. Quite frankly, cooperating with ICE at this time makes our city less safe because it makes undocumented individuals fearful of coming forward to report crimes or testify in criminal cases."
A city spokeswoman told Philly.com that Kenney has not decided whether to vote to renew the contract, citing concerns about the Trump administration's threat to defund cities that don't adhere to ICE's demands. A city spokesman declined to comment when reached by the Associated Press on Wednesday.
A federal judge ruled in Philadelphia's favor in June in a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions challenging his office's attempt to withhold federal grant funding because the city had not complied with demands for more access to inmates accused of being in the country illegally.
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson called the conditions placed on the city to receive the funding capricious in his opinion, that the federal government is expected to appeal. He said the conditions were not constitutional, but said if they were to be considered valid, Philadelphia had largely complied with them.
It was unclear how ending the contract might affect the ongoing lawsuit and any possible appeals. An email sent to federal officials seeking comment was not immediately answered Wednesday.
Anyone who interacts with law enforcement is entered into PARS including those arrested, but also victims, witnesses and others. ICE officers are supposed to be blocked from seeing information on victims and witnesses as part of the contract, but immigration advocates said sharing the information still has a negative impact on immigrants reporting crimes.
At a press conference last week after protesters were removed from the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, Kenney said his office was looking into whether ICE officials had misused the PARS database by targeting "noncriminal" immigrants living in the country without legal permission. He said if ICE had done so, he would vote not to renew the contract.
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