By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
2.17.17: Philadelphia – (Politics): Small and happy children, seemingly without a care in the world, played and giggled in an increasingly crowded room on Thursday evening while the adults and young people there, some holding hand-drawn signs, wore a determined, yet sometimes worried, face.
“Our families are more vulnerable than ever,” said Ms. Olivia Ponce, a community organizer at Juntos, a South Philadelphia immigration advocacy nonprofit organization, which held a press conference in the later part of a ‘Day without Immigrants’ to announce plans for another strike (May 1st), denounce the existence and uptick of raids, and call for the Mayor, who has proven to be an ally to this population, to do more to ensure Philadelphia is truly a sanctuary city.
The Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Jim Kenney, on his first day in office signed an executive order re-establishing the City’s sanctuary status; and he’s said many times, even after threats of economic sanctions from U.S. President Mr. Donald J. Trump, that he won’t reverse his course.
Ms. Erika Almiron, who serves as Juntos’ Executive Director, is grateful for that action – which essentially bans local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officers – and for the Mayor’s overall defiance to Mr. Trump, who repeatedly criminalizes undocumented immigrants, but said Thursday that as long as raids continue to happen here, and people are pulled from their homes and separated from their families, that Philadelphia is not truly a sanctuary city.
Ms. Ponce, a mother of two who came to this country seventeen years ago, echoed that sentiment, saying: “Philly signed to end ICE holds, but there is more to do.”
Also in concert with those statements was Ms. Olivia Vasquez, a young Juntos employee who said Thursday’s assembly at 6th & Tasker Street, where the organization’s headquarters is situated, was to demonstrate that though vulnerable, the community is “no longer afraid” and stands ready to fight until “Philadelphia becomes a true sanctuary city.”
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Mayor Kenney, a Democrat, earlier this week is reported to have said he’s willing to work with undocumented communities to “figure out ways in which we legally protect you.” According an analysis by the Pew Research Center, Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, is home to roughly 50,000 undocumented immigrants.
Philadelphia’s first major step beyond the sanctuary city Executive Order was announced this week: the formation of Take Action Philly, an initiative uniting lawyers, government, community organizations and residents to protect and assist some of the City’s most vulnerable dwellers. The first scheduled convening is February 24th at the Loews Hotel in Center City Philadelphia and it’ll focus on Immigrant and Refugee Policy.
“The outpouring of calls and emails I’ve received from Philadelphians asking how they can stand up for their immigrant neighbors have been incredibly heartening. This convening will ensure we are coordinating our efforts to put up the best possible plan of action for the immigrants of Philadelphia,” the Mayor said in a statement.
Miriam Enriquez, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, is quoted in the press release announcing ‘Take Action Philly’ as saying: “Our immigrant and refugee communities are under attack.”
Her statement continued:
“By providing immigrants and refugees information and a way to complete their pathway to citizenship, we are arming them with one of the best defenses against deportation – naturalization.”
Ms. Almiron recognizes that citizenship is an option, but holds hesitancy because she’s seen citizenship hasn’t made things all that better for other communities. More than citizenship, said Ms. Almiron, the people in that crowded South Philadelphia room, and those like them, wants their human rights protected, a dignified job, funded schools, and to see and be with their families.
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