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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney

Credit: Ilana Wurman

Over 100 immigrants were arrested in Philadelphia recently after a four-day nationwide sweep targeting sanctuary cities. 

The arrests were publicized in a press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which termed the raids "Operation Safe City."  

The operation took place in "sanctuary cities," where municipal officials refuse to turn undocumented immigrants accused of nonviolent crimes over to federal customs authorities. Philadelphia has openly identified as a "sanctuary city." Penn President Amy Gutmann also has called campus a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

Overall, ICE arrested nearly 500 immigrants during the raids, which ended on Sept. 27.

Immigrants with criminal records, pending criminal charges and known gang affiliations were among those targeted in the raids. Some of those arrested are waiting for a hearing, while others are subject to immediate deportation.

In Philadelphia, officials apply policies that treat undocumented and documented residents equally in the courts.

“When our immigrant communities cannot trust law enforcement, they are less likely to want to work with them to fight crime,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “Operation Safe City does not make our city safer and further sows seeds of distrust between our police and immigrants.”

The raid occurred just weeks after Mayor Kenney sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions for withholding grant money from sanctuary cities. Protesters took to the streets of Center City last month, demanding that ICE release their plans for raids.

ICE Acting Director Tom Homan upholds the decision to target sanctuary cities. Homan said these cities are “shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration.”

Immigrants with active DACA status were not arrested, according to ICE officials.

Brian Abernathy, first deputy managing director, said the police department first heard about the raids from the ICE report. “It’s a sign that the federal government is going to step up pressure on cities with policies that are welcoming and treat immigrants equally,” Abernathy said. “But we still firmly believe our policies make us safe.”