The City of Philadelphia is ending a major contract it had with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE which allowed ICE to collect data from an arrest database kept by local law enforcement. Both protestors and city officials agree that ICE has been abusing the data from law enforcement officials to target suspected immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Demonstrations were staged for weeks, calling for ICE to be blocked from the database known as PARS (Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System) by Philadelphia police and officials. The protesters even created a kind of tent city while protesting and hanging signs, and also took over City Hall to push the city to terminate the contract with the federal organization.

Private meetings had been conducted with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney by activists who shared their stories of abuses by ICE agents who had been using the database to search for suspected “illegal” immigrants who had never even committed a crime. Kenney, who had been a vocal proponent of Philadelphia’s status as a sanctuary city, had to be forced to take this stand.

Following these meetings, Kenney stated, “If I could abolish ICE, I would… But we can abolish this contract, and we are.” He continued, “Just because the person’s name is Lopez, or some other Hispanic name, you’re going to go to their house and take people out of their home? I mean, It just makes no sense, and I never want to be part of this.”

The contract, which ran for over a decade before Kenney decided to cancel it, allowed ICE to access a person’s full name, birth country, and detention status but did not determine if a person is in the country illegally.

Predictably, federal immigration officials are not happy with the policy change, saying that Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status already makes enforcing its immigration policies difficult.

Peter Spiro, who teaches immigration law at Philadelphia’s Temple University, explains, “The immigrant advocate groups are clearly winning significant battles at the local level, and this is counted now among them… Immigrant advocates have nowhere to go in Washington these days, in either with the administration or in Congress… So they’re trying to exercise these other pressure points.”

Kenney insists that Philadelphia will not be retreating from its stance against ICE: “That’s not the policing that we’re looking for. There’s rules and regulations that police have to follow that these guys (ICE) don’t follow… So we’re not going to provide them with additional information so they can round up people.”