Philadelphia will renew a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE , that gives immigration authorities access to city arrest records after revising the agreement to exclude data on victims and witnesses.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced Friday that the city had agreed to renew for one year its participation in ICE's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System, or PARS, after his concerns were addressed that the data on victims and witnesses were discouraging illegal immigrants from reporting crimes out of fear of being deported.
"The city of Philadelphia will no longer provide victim and witness information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement," Nutter said in a written statement. "Victims should come forward. Witnesses should speak out. Their information will go no further. No action with regards to their status will be taken."
The agreement appears to resolve for now one immigration controversy as another rages in Arizona over that state's tough law cracking down on illegal immigrants. Arizona's law has drawn several legal challenges and protests from opponents, including the federal government, and praise from supporters, including other states looking to pass similar measures.
Philadelphia had become a proxy fight over how far states and cities should go to fight illegal immigration.
Under the PARS agreement, federal immigration agents can look at preliminary arrest records for the past year, including cases that are tossed before a trial begins. Nutter had said he would support renewing the contract only if the program is changed to protect illegal immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to crimes.
Supporters of the program, including local Tea Party activists, had argued ending the agreement would make Philly a safe haven for illegal immigrants. But opponents had said people arrested for minor crimes already are subject to deportations.
The city also participates in ICE's Secure Communities program, which allows authorities to check the immigration status of individuals they arrest through fingerprinting.
Nutter fired a shot at Tea Party members in his statement as he called for comprehensive immigration overhaul that enhances border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
"Yes we need enhanced border control. Yes we need to focus our efforts on those who pose a threat to our country," he said. "But let's not fall into the trap set by the Tea Party and others who would tell you that every single undocumented individual is a drug smuggler, a terrorist, or a threat to the American way of life. That is simply not true."