By Dustin Slaughter
Amid chants of “No papers, no fear!”, hundreds of immigrant rights demonstrators gathered in sweltering morning heat at Capitolo Park in south Philadelphia this morning to demand that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pressure President Barack Obama to order a moratorium on deportations, saying that the situation is too urgent to wait until after November.
“We want Clinton and the Democrats to take action now and demand a moratorium from Obama,” a woman said to the crowd at today’s rally.
Miguel Andrade, a local organizer, said that Clinton’s nomination, expected to occur this week during Philadelphia’s Democratic National Convention, “is not enough,” and that a Clinton election win later this year is no guarantee that mass deportations would end.
Last year, Clinton strongly supported mass raids carried out by federal officials. Feeling pressure from former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and immigrant rights groups, she has since changed her position, denouncing raids carried out by the Obama administration this year.
Demonstrators also demanded that officials shut down the Berks family detention facility, located approximately 60 miles outside of Philadelphia. The center earlier this year lost its license after Pennsylvania Department of Human Services determined that detaining children fell outside of the facility’s mandate. Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that children must be released from federal detention facilities, which would include the Berks center. The 9th Circuit decision did not order the release of parents.
Councilwoman-at-Large Helen Gym spoke briefly to the assembled crowd before the march began. Gym thanked undocumented activists and others for continuing to speak out, and reaffirmed her commitment to defending the rights of all immigrants. She also heralded Mayor Jim Kenney’s continuing defense of Philadelphia’s ‘sanctuary city’ status, which has come under fire from opponents in Congress, including Senator Pat Toomey.
Toomey, who has made undocumented immigration a signature issue in his reelection campaign against rival Katie McGinty this year, sponsored a bill last month that would withhold congressional funding to cities, including Philadelphia, that bar local police from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions, excepting cases involving violent felonies. That bill was defeated earlier this month though.
Today’s march ended at City Hall, where several people shared stories on behalf of family members and friends who remain in detention.