New Sanctuary Movement written testimony for 3/3/14 City Council hearing on ICE holds

To: Chairman of City Council’s Public Safety Committee, Councilman Curtis Jones
CC: Philadelphia City Council, Mayor Michael Nutter

Dear Councilman Jones,

New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia writes in support of the March 3, 2014 City Council public hearing on the collaboration between the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and urges the City of Philadelphia to stop honoring all ICE hold requests. As an interfaith, multicultural immigrant justice organization, New Sanctuary Movement builds community across faith, ethnicity, and class in our work to end injustices against immigrants regardless of immigration status, express radical welcome for all, and ensure that values of dignity, justice, hospitality are lived out in practice and upheld in policy.

As a grassroots organization of immigrants and their allies, we see the effects of deportation via compliance with non-mandatory ICE holds every day. Our community has been ripped apart by the collaboration between the PPD and ICE. Compliance with ICE holds results in children who may never see their parents again, spouses left without partners, and our members deported to countries they fled because of death threats, violence, and deep, systemic poverty. This comes at the expense of Philadelphia taxpayers. By using local tax dollars to deport immigrants out of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia prioritizes deportation and family separation while cutting the real essential services that all Philadelphians need to survive.

Our undocumented members, including children, routinely witness and/or are victims of crimes and do not call the police, knowing that any interaction with law enforcement can result in deportation. As such, ICE holds threaten public safety for all Philadelphia residents. Non-citizens who commit crimes and serve jail time are doubly punished by being deported immediately after completing their sentences. As people of faith, we believe in second chances and rehabilitation – not serving double punishments, which further traumatizes family members who are left behind.

As a faith-based organization working with religious congregations throughout Philadelphia, we have organized faith communities to end PPD cooperation with ICE holds since their implementation in 2008. We are encouraged that Mayor Nutter is taking our grave concerns on currently local immigration policy into consideration, but we urge the Mayor and his administration to end ICE holds for all of our community members, regardless of history with the criminal system. Ending ICE holds will not interfere with the criminal justice system. Only by ending all ICE holds can we honor the dignity of all of our immigrant family, friends, and community members.

The City of Philadelphia now has the historic opportunity to end compliance with ICE holds, strengthening our multicultural communities and honoring the foundation of our city. We urge City Council and the Mayor’s Administration to support immigrants and their allies by ending all compliance with ICE holds. We invite Mayor Nutter to work with us to achieve this goal. We will continue to organize immigrants and their allies until Philadelphia becomes a welcoming city for all, regardless of immigration status.


Peter Pedemonti, Blanca Pacheco, and Nicole Kligerman
Staff, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia

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Immigrant led Community Organizing

Our staff manages our campaigns and programs while our members join our working committees to inform our programming, choose our campaigns, and plan our strategies to win. Through conversation and listening, our members and the community on the ground are the ones directing the organization. When people reach out to NSM, they connect with someone who speaks their language, looks like them, and is committed to empowering immigrant communities because they understand their journey and struggle. At NSM, our communities see their peers guiding our mission, creating trust, and allowing members to recognize NSM as an immigrant-led organization.
NSM works to lift the skills of the affected community and dismantle systems of oppression while promoting systems of mutual support, collective liberation, and respect for all people, which is why we provide interpretation services, respect childcare needs, schedule our sessions during times that work best for members who work multiple jobs or cannot meet in person, and allow members to inform us about their individual needs before meetings.
The community leads our work at every level to eliminate unnecessary barriers and meet the varied needs of our members.

Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development Program is a step in recruiting and training new leaders and training. The program blends the skills and experiences members bring from their home countries with NSM’s signature faith-rooted and anti-racist organizing model.

We have curricula for each level of membership, which includes workshops on the history of detention, community organizing, nonviolent protest, campaign strategy, and ongoing anti-racism training. Our programming encourages immigrant leaders to find their voice, understand the power of collective resistance, and join a community of immigrant leaders fighting for transformational systemic changes rooted in social and economic justice.

Leading this initiative is Bertha Murcia, one of NSM's Community Organizers. She is an alumna of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia immigrant leadership program and oversees member engagement.

Build Community Power

NSM’s organizing efforts emphasize community building, inviting people to new roles, deepening Black and Brown solidarity, long-term leadership development, and impactful campaigns.

We build a base of people from our 33 congregations and Accompaniment Team and direct that people-power to fight specific campaigns. Staff members work with immigrant members to choose our campaigns, guide our strategies, lead events, and ensure our work is focused on meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s various immigrant communities.

Having a hands-on role in changing policy allows our members to gain a sense of empowerment, confidence, and self-respect. Empowering immigrants of color to organize collectively is part of NSM’s long haul work to create a people-powered movement for immigrant justice.