Original article by Jeff Gammage can be found here: https://www.philly.com/news/ice-immigration-immigrants-courts-arrests-sheriffs-department-20190405.html

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have agreed to halt arrests of migrants inside Philadelphia courthouses, as part of an accord that defines how agents may enter and act in the halls of justice, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The new procedure, to take effect Monday, requires plainclothes ICE agents to identify themselves to sheriff’s deputies at the front-door security stations, to reveal whether they are armed, and to state where in the building they intend to go. Those deputies will alert their supervisors, who could contact the judge in the courtroom to which the agent is headed, said Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Paris Washington.

ICE officials said they could not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new guidelines come five days after The Inquirer reported on a March 21 incident in which an ICE agent, dressed in a Muhammad Ali T-shirt in a Criminal Justice Center courtroom, flashed a badge at a public defender and asked the lawyer about his client.

Defender John Lopez had noticed the man in Courtroom 906 and walked over to introduce himself. The man produced a photo of Lopez’s client.

“Is this person here?” the agent asked.

“No,” Lopez answered, which was true.

Washington said the agreement seeks to eliminate that kind of incident. Agents can conduct surveillance but should not approach attorneys or have physical contact with anyone, he said.

Defender Association attorneys Robin Forrest, left, and John Lopez, pictured outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia last month.

Sheriff’s deputies provide security for all courthouses, including the Stout Center for Criminal Justice, City Hall, Family Court, Traffic Court, and Philadelphia Parking Authority Court.

“I think it’s a fantastic real step forward,” said Temple University law professor Jennifer Lee, who has worked to limit ICE presence in courts. “If there’s an actual agreement, that’s important, because there’s some recognition by ICE that they don’t need to conduct these activities in courthouses.”

ICE agents still can make arrests immediately outside Philadelphia courthouses — a vexation to immigration advocates, who say that frightens away undocumented witnesses, victims, and defendants.

Despite the local agreement, national ICE policy continues to allow agents to take action inside courthouses. In those settings, they can move against specific, targeted immigrants: those who have criminal convictions, are gang members, pose national security or public-safety threats, have been ordered removed from the United States, or have reentered the country after deportation.

Attorney Brennan Gian-Grasso, who leads the Philadelphia chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was doubtful of the new procedures having a positive impact.

“ICE has no place inside a Philadelphia courthouse,” he said. “I don’t know how much this does to change the climate. And I don’t know how much it represents a change in ICE’s intimidation of people who are trying to participate in civil society.”

Agents can still locate someone inside the courthouse, then follow that person outside to make an arrest, he noted.

The Sheriff’s Department has asked ICE to provide advance notice of planned actions immediately around the courthouse. ICE has arrested at least three people this year as they entered or left the Criminal Justice Center in Center City.

“We don’t want any friendly-fire incidents,” Washington said, citing concern inside and outside city courthouses that sheriff’s deputies might not realize ICE was making an arrest — only that an armed man seemed to be threatening someone.

A lone "Occupy ICE" demonstrator faces off against Philadelphia police on Broad Street last summer, his back to City Hall. Other protesters massed to the side.

Washington, who runs the operations division, said the agreement came out of a Thursday meeting between Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security, and Philadelphia ICE officials.

The new guidelines come too late for Jesus Sical, 45, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant who was arrested inside the CJC on March 29 as he tried to attend his preliminary hearing on domestic-assault charges, according to his attorney and other lawyers.

He now is being held by ICE at the Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley, pending deportation.

Municipal Court Judge Karen Simmons, who was ready to hear Sical’s case, was upset that ICE short-circuited the justice system. Defense lawyers pointed out that while Sical has a 12-year-old drunken-driving conviction, on the day of his arrest he stood legally innocent of assault, with no court having ruled. ICE says it moved against Sical after Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, as is its policy, refused the agency’s request to keep him in a city jail for pickup.

When Sical was arrested, he was not hiding or on the run. He was free on bail and preparing for his trial, accused of a vicious attack on his stepdaughter.

Simmons said she learned about Sical’s arrest only when his attorney phoned her chambers. “I don’t understand, nor do I believe it was appropriate, to not allow the person to come into the courtroom [and] handle his case,” the judge said.

She has told the Defender Association and the District Attorney’s Office that their attorneys are to alert her immediately if they notice ICE agents in her courtroom.

According to ICE, it’s safer for agents, offenders, and the public when arrests take place in courthouses, because everyone entering the building has been screened for weapons. And, officials say, courthouse arrests can be necessary in places that refuse to let agents enter their prisons and jails to take immigrants into custody.

ICE says it doesn’t know when or where Sical entered the United States.

On May 28, 2007, court records show, Sical was pulled over in the 7900 block of Bustleton Avenue by police officers, who charged him with drunken driving. His blood-alcohol content was 0.184 percent, far above the legal 0.08 definition. Sical was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to three to six days in jail, six months’ probation, and participation in drug-and-alcohol treatment programs.

That would not be his last time in trouble. Shortly before 2 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2019, police were called to a home in the 1800 block of Faunce Street in Rhawnhurst. They found Sical’s stepdaughter, Jennifer Dayana Garcia, with bruises on her neck, scratches on her face, and cuts and bruises on both hands.

She told police that Sical, angry that she had sent money to her mother in Guatemala, threatened her, “I could assault you in ways that your mother would never know. … I could grab you and have sex with you and no one would ever know.”

He fixed her in a headlock, then began strangling her, Garcia told police. She got free and started to scream, but Sical clamped his hands over her mouth, cutting off her breathing.

She broke loose, ran out of the house and called police, Garcia said.

Police charged Sical with assault, strangulation, and making terroristic threats. After ICE arrested him, the charges were withdrawn.

We are saddened to acknowledge and mourn the passing of two members of the Sheriff’s Office family. We salute their commitment to the highest level of service and dedication to their duties.

Sgt. Michael Jesus, who served in the Warrant Unit, has been a Deputy Sheriff Officer since 1997. Michael achieved the rank of Sergeant in 2016 and is a second generation law enforcement officer; his father, Joseph Jesus also served in the Sheriff’s Warrant Unit before him.

DSO Saberta Campbell recently retired from the Sheriff’'s office , having served as a Deputy in the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice for the past 23 years. Prior to her appointment as Deputy Sheriff Officer, Ms. Campbell served proudly as a Correctional Officer for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons.

 

 

This article by was originally posted at http://www.phillytrib.com/news/local_news/annual-mlk-day-luncheon-honors-those-fighting-for-justice-voting/article_ecf080d2-b3b2-51c9-b422-9b177e64be68.html

As the nation honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence held its annual Awards and Benefit Luncheon on Monday. The organization honored local community leaders and activists with its annual “Drum Major” awards.

The “Drum Major” awards are named in honor of King’s famous 1968 “Drum Major Instinct” speech, which was the last high-profile speech of his life and when he famously said that he “hoped to be a drum major for peace.” The honorees were recognized for their philanthropic and community service in the Philadelphia community.

This year’s honorees included Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams and Laborers International of North America Local Union 332 Business Manager Samuel Staten, Radio One Founder and CEO Cathy Hughes, and 97-year-old New Jersey election worker Laura Wooten. 

“When you’re a 97-year-old Black woman, [voting] is a topic where you have a lot to say,” said Wooten, a native of Princeton, New Jersey. She worked her first election in 1939 at the age of just 18, and has worked every election since.

“You know that elections matter,” she said. “And — God willing — I’ll be right there at the Lawrence Road firehouse helping out at the polls in 2020.”

Previous “Drum Major” honorees include Joe Frazier, J. Whyatt Mondesire, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Cicely Tyson, Nelson Mandela, Dick Gregory, Rosa Parks and Donald “Ducky” Birts.

Other 2019 honorees included Ken Harbin and Gina Ross, who were honored for their 14 and 12 years respectively with the organization with the C. Delores Tucker Volunteer Award. The organization was founded by the late activist in 1983.

A number of elected officials also attended the luncheon, including Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. 

“When I think of Martin Luther King, the one word I think of is justice,” Casey said. “By commemorating his legacy; by fighting for justice every day of the year — not just on MLK Day — you pay tribute to his legacy for fighting for justice.”

Casey noted the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence could not hold its annual ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell because the bell was closed due to the government shutdown. The senator spoke during the luncheon and had a pointed message to Donald Trump regarding the ongoing.

“This shutdown could end tomorrow morning when I go back to Washington,” Casey said, taking Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to task. “We can talk for a long time after the government’s open, about border security or anything else. The House did its job and acted responsibly.

“Now you have the leader of the Senate Republicans in league with the President, who shut the government down, so now you only have two people who can open this government,” he added. “Pass the bill in the Senate and open the government first and get the people back to work.”

Sheriff Jewell Williams and members of the Sheriff’s Office distributed toys at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Old City on December 20, 2018. The toys were collected by Sheriff’s Office throughout the holiday season at the Sheriff’s Office, Criminal Justice Center, Family Court, Traffic Court as well as two partnered toy drives at multiple Five Below stores throughout Philadelphia. Toys are distributed to local schools and pre-schools as well as the Veterans Service Center.

Mandarin, Cantonese and other Asian languages were included for the first time in a seminars about buying properties through the Philadelphia's Sheriff's Office.

Original article by Sam Newhouse can be found here: https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/philadelphia/philly-sheriff-asian-seminar

One of the main responsibilities of the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office is running sales for the city's court system, at which tax-delinquent or foreclosed-upon properties are sold off to the highest bidder.

In a bid to make more inclusive a program that he said offers "the American dream" to the diverse non-English speaking communities of the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, Sheriff Jewell Williams organized the office's first Sheriff's Sale seminar with Asian language interpreters on Saturday, Dec. 8.

About 300 people from all walks of life attended this Sheriff's Sale seminar, organized by the office's Real Estate Division, which included interpreters for several Asian languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Filipino, Laotian and Korean. About three-quarters of attendees were Asian-Americans, while the remainder were other ethnicities taking advantage of a rare weekend seminar. Overall attendance was more than double a usual weekday seminar, Sheriff Jewell Williams said.

"It went very well. It was a historic event for the Asian community," Williams told Metro after the seminar. "The Asian community is sometimes not heard. For this seminar, Asians, African Americans, whites and Latinos came together, and they all had the same concerns, they were communicating with each other, exchanging ideas and questions."

How much will a property cost? The lowest bid depends on the type of sale, based on standards set by the Revenue Department. The highest bidder wins the property and must be prepared to make a deposit of at least $600 or 10 percent the winning bid.The Sheriff's Sale program sells off properties that have been forfeited by their past owners to the public due to unpaid mortgages or property taxes. These properties are auctioned off to recoup the city for lost revenues. Approximately 12,000 properties over 60 auctions per year.

One major change to the program since Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams took office in 2012 has been the beefing up of the office's Defendant Asset Recovery Team (DART), to return excess funds from these sales, beyond the debt on the property, to the former owner.

Sheriff's Sales are only intended to recoup overdue funds, and not intended to net a profit for the city or office. Since 2012, Williams said his office returned $16,969,816 to the original property-owners through the DART program.

Seminars on how to navigate the process are held the second Tuesday and second Friday every month at the Sheriff's Office. The office is also exploring holding more Saturday seminars, " as not everyone can attend during the week and we want the process of buying property at a Sheriff sale to be open to as many people as possible," Williams said.

This first-ever seminar with Asian interpreters, "How to Buy Property at a Sheriff Sale: A Seminar for the Asian Business Community," was held Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10-11:30 a.m., at 3801 Market St. Williams said his office is looking into holding more seminars in foreign languages and on weekend dates.