End ICE Access to PARS, Says Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner joined a growing chorus of residents who want the city to cease sharing arrest information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Calls to end ICE access to the Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, or PARS, have grown in recent days as dozens of protesters continue to camp outside city hall.

“Let me be crystal clear: I will absolutely be a ‘no’ vote,” Krasner said Wednesday morning. “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. That’s simply unacceptable.”

Currently, immigration officials have access to country of origin and Social Security data after an arrest is made. But that contract is scheduled to end on Aug. 31. The city, district attorney’s office and the First Judicial District must decide before then whether to renew. In the past, the PARS working group reached an agreement without needing a formal vote, according to the mayor's office. 

The upcoming deadline has galvanized ICE opponents, who, in addition to ending the PARS contract, would like to see the entire agency dissolved.

“Right now, the city is collaborating with ICE to allow them to run unchecked,” protest organizer Anlin Wang said.

Wang is suing a Philadelphia police officer for allegedly using excessive force against him last week during an anti-ICE protest, he told NBC10. The officer struck Wang in the back of his head before “stomping” on his glasses, he said.

Krasner, a progressive who has not shied away from controversy since taking office in January, would like to see a better relationship develop between law enforcement agencies and Philadelphia’s growing immigrant communities.

“It creates a whole category of victims … because American criminals know that they could rob these people, they can hurt these people, they can rape these people, and there will be fear and the witnesses will not come forward,” he said. “What [President Donald] Trump is doing is setting us all back.”

Where Mayor Jim Kenney stands on PARS remains less clear. He attended a meeting earlier this week with Vamos Juntos, an immigrant advocacy group who has worked closely with protesters. He also sued the Trump administration last year over withholding federal grant funds in retaliation for Philadelphia’s sanctuary city policy. Kenney has also spoken openly about immigrants’ contribution to the city and country.

But he has not made a public decision on PARS. A spokesperson said that Kenney is having "ongoing conversations" with city stakeholders and "plans to have a resolution" ahead of the August deadline. 

“He was deeply saddened by how many members of our community are forced to live in fear,” the mayor’s office said in a statement after the meeting.

Immigration advocates bristle at the idea that Kenney might backtrack on his promise to keep Philadelphia a sanctuary.

“Playing these games … is political theater,” protest organizer Deborah Rose said.

While ICE’s reach in Philadelphia continues to hang in the balance, a new POLITICO poll suggests Americans might not be as divided on the agency. Only 25 percent of voters support abolishing ICE compared to 54 percent who think it should remain in place, according to the poll.

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is among those voices calling for an end to ICE, which was created under President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks. Harris will join Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey later this week in Philadelphia. Casey is up for reelection and facing staunch conservative U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who, as former mayor of Hazleton, rose to infamy by attempting to make English the official language of that city.

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