Police commissioner testifies in suit against Justice Department over immigration policies

Pat Loeb
May 10, 2018 - 3:42 pm
Teaneck Together organized a rally showing Teaneck will stand together in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants of all nationalities in our community against the ban on immigration in 2017.

Amy Newman/NorthJersey.coml via USA TODAY NETWORK

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice presented their case Thursday in a lawsuit over Philadelphia's immigration policy. 

The attorneys seemed to want Police Commissioner Richard Ross to help them make the case that the city's policy — of not holding inmates at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, unless they present a judicial warrant — was a potential threat to public safety. But Ross testified he doesn't believe that to be true, as he explained afterward.

"We have our challenges, and one of them is not crimes committed by undocumented [people]. That may be the case in other areas. That's not the case here," Ross said. 

The city's case states that its policy is legal. 

Judge Michael Baylson suggested that immigration authorities do everything required to get a judicial warrant — including producing evidence of unlawful activity — and that the city treat that as if it were a warrant. 

Neither side would comment on the suggestion. They'll be back in court next month.

Ross told the judge that his department is not an arm of immigration, nor does it have reason to be.

"We're not even dealing, for the most part, with people from Camden, or places like that," Ross said. "There are small exceptions, but for the most part, we deal with people who are from here."

The judge told Justice Department attorneys that he believes the city is correct in requiring judicial warrants and wanted a better explanation of why immigration authorities can't get them. He also said he wants some mechanism so that criminal immigrants, eligible for deportation, are not simply released back to the community.