Columns

Philly’s Largest Cinco de Mayo Event Nixed as Organizers Fear Mass ICE Roundup

It’s as much a rite of the spring season in Philadelphia as the Phillies’ home opener. But it won’t happen this year.

The city’s largest annual event associated with the Cinco de Mayo holiday has been canceled for fears that ICE agents would be able to round up large numbers of illegal immigrants.

This is more than just the paranoia of people who spend their days looking over their shoulders for federal agents. Philadelphia and Pennsylvania have been specifically targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration lawyer David Kaplan told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the fears expressed by Puebla Carnival organizers were justified.

“I don’t think it’s beyond [ICE] to put themselves in the right locations where people would stop to eat before going to the carnival,” Kaplan said.

They also have to be aware of the legislation being introduced, as reported by PJM, to stop what several GOP lawmakers see as an “illegal alien invasion.”

A Philadelphia Democrat has also introduced legislation to stop any jail cell in Pennsylvania from being used as a holding tank for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

However, the organizers of the Puebla Carnival, which was expected to attract at least 15,000 people, decided it would be best to scratch the event this year.

“Under these sad circumstances, we do not think it is fair or an environment conducive to a celebration of joy … we do not want to add a risk,” the organization’s press release read.

Edgar Ramirez, a member of the organizing committee, told Al Dia he was worried about hundreds of people who come from outside Philadelphia to take part in the largest parade outside Mexico to commemorate the Battle of Puebla.

“Carnival is easy, but we want to take precautionary measures because 60 percent of our comrades come from other cities in the region and from other states. We do not want to expose them on their trip to Philadelphia, “ Ramirez said.

“People are scared,” Ramirez told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The atmosphere is not good.”

Before last year’s Philadelphia Puebla Carnival, the Mexican Cultural Center told EFE, a Spanish international news agency, that 25,000 Mexicans lived in the city and “the number may be higher if undocumented Mexicans are counted.”

To David Pina, one of the founders of the Puebla Carnival, the cancellation was about more than just keeping hundreds, if not thousands, of people from being deported.

He said the message that should be read between the lines of the cancellation was one of raising “a voice of protest” to Trump administration immigration policy.

The decision by event organizers follows ICE raids in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware that netted nearly 250 illegal immigrants. Most of them were arrested in Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Richey, ICE’s field office director in Philadelphia, said several of them were arrested in Philadelphia, one of America’s sanctuary cities where local police refuse to hold illegal immigrants for ICE agents.

“In the Philadelphia area, ICE arrested several at-large criminal aliens in which the agency had issued detainers but the City of Philadelphia failed to honor them and released the individuals from custody — a situation that puts the public at unnecessary risk,” she said.

Reuters has estimated that Philadelphia could lose $199.5 million in federal funding if Trump follows through on his threat to pull money from sanctuary cities.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has said he was “devastated” by the Puebla Carnival cancellation, but gave no inclination the city’s “sanctuary” status would change.

Indeed, Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Kenney, doubled down. She said to hold people without warrants or probable cause would be a violation of their constitutional rights.

“Like ICE, we want to keep Philadelphians safe, but we can’t do that if we are asked to violate the Constitution and if we are asked to destroy the trust our officers have built with communities,” she said.

The counter-argument is that because they are not legal residents of America, they don’t have any constitutional rights.

This will only heat up the debate, but a Philadelphia Democrat said he will introduce legislation to stop local law enforcement agencies anywhere in Pennsylvania from locking up illegal immigrants at the behest of ICE.

“Instead of getting ‘bad dudes’ off our streets, the Trump administration’s stepped-up raids are often rounding up people for relatively minor offenses or civil immigration law infractions and breaking up families,” Rep. Christopher Rabb (D) said in a statement.

“Attacking sanctuary cities will not make us safer,” Rabb added, “as immigrants, both documented and not, are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S.”

However, Richey said Rabb’s proposal, even if it is approved, would not stop ICE from doing what ICE does.

“ICE will continue to conduct targeted enforcement operations,” she said in a statement, “whether local jurisdictions intend to cooperate with ICE or not.”