Federal Immigration’s Philly field office blasts mayor over ‘sanctuary city’ policy

Kenney wants cops at permitted events in wake of park shooting
Mayor Jim Kenney.
Charles Mostoller

More than two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, so-called sanctuary cities that provide some legal protections for undocumented immigrants have come under increasing attack, and Philadelphia is no exception.

This week, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Philadelphia field office blasted Mayor Jim Kenney for the city’s handling of a specific case now more than a year old.

In a statement released Tuesday, officials criticized Kenney for how the city dealt with a Dominican national accused of raping a child, who was arrested by city police in July 2015.

Winston Enrique Perez Pilarte, also known as Josue Duran-Cortes, was charged with attempted rape and indecent assault on a minor. His trial is set to start in December.

Despite a request by ICE for a detainer to hold the 40-year-old Perez Pilarte, a judge set bail at $250,000. He was released after posting $25,000 cash on Nov. 25, 2015.

Immigration authorities then worked for months to track him down, eventually rearresting Pilarte in September.

In the statement released Tuesday, Tom Decker, an agent with the ICE Philadelphia office, had sharp words for Kinney.

“One of our best resources to keep these dangerous criminals off of our streets and from committing more crimes is for the mayor to honor our detainers and requests for notification,” he said. “ICE is hopeful that the mayor will work with us to keep our community safe.”

Kenney has staunchly defended Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” policies, which allow city agencies to disregard such federal detainers. So-called U.S. sanctuary cities agree not to prosecute undocumented immigrants for the sole reason of having entered the country illegally.

Kenney prefers to call Philadelphia a “Fourth Amendment” city, meaning it will protect anyone from being arrested without warrant from a judge.

ICE’s local field office has previously called out the mayor for his refusal to honor such detainers they have issued.

Kenney’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, said the mayor complies with the law, and added that Decker’s argument is a tired one.

“All ICE has to do in these cases is to secure a warrant and we will turn the individual in question over to them,” she said in an email. “This arrest is proof that ICE doesn’t need to rely on our prison system to do their job. They clearly have other tools in their arsenal to go after individuals they seek.”

Perez Pilarte is again in custody, this time under the watch of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He is awaiting a hearing in immigration court, Decker said in his news release. Perez Pilarte has had previous convictions on drug charges, resisting arrest and theft, according to the news release.