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.

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.

Original article by Michael D'Onforio can be found here http://www.phillytrib.com/news/we-are-in-a-crisis/article_8cb69084-2a8d-5110-b9b4-eadd81d096d0.html

 

Gun violence has scarred John Solomon.

 

One scar runs nearly 6 inches up Solomon’s left tricep toward his shoulder, the result of surgery after a bullet struck him on its way into his chest when he was 15.

 

“But the true reminder is inside of me,” Solomon said as he stood at the intersection of West Huntington and North Chadwick streets in North Philadelphia on Monday. “It’s not a physical thing,” the 26-year-old added. “It’s the trauma that I went through. It’s the trauma: That’s the biggest reminder.”

 

With shootings on the rise in the city, Solomon joined a coalition of Black men and community groups — along with Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams — who called for a cease-fire and halt to the shootings. “We are in a crisis, particularly the African-American community,” said Bilal Qayyum, founder and president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee.

 

The city has logged 234 homicides this year as of Sunday, an increase of 8 percent from the same time in 2017, according to the Philadelphia Police Department’s online database. About 84 percent of those killed have been overwhelmingly Black: 177 Black men and 20 Black women, according to a police spokesman.

 

Through Sunday, there also had been 1,193 shooting incidents with 961 shooting victims among them, said the police spokesman. One of the most recent shootings happened at the location of the press conference; a 32-year-old man was shot and killed there last week. A makeshift memorial — a photo, balloons, candles and stuffed animals — sat at the base of a telephone pole nearby. Resident Taaj Hall, 30, said that man was his long-time friend, Earl McCormick. Philadelphia police did not respond to a request to confirm the identity of the man who was killed.

 

“People are dying; people are losing their life,” Hall said. “You can’t get your life back. You can’t push replay. You can’t get it back, so we need some people to care to get together to try to stop it (gun violence).”

 

Williams, the sheriff, said he and groups have been working for years to reduce gun violence, “but the message is just not getting there.”

 

“So we’re calling on people to talk it out, and don’t shoot it out,” Williams said.

 

Mell Wells, president of One Day at a Time, said Black communities have to admit there is a problem. “It’s time to start raising hell about what we’re doing to one another,” he said. “About these babies who are dying in our street. … we’ve got to start ... putting down the guns and start helping out one another by watching each others’ back.”

 

Terry Starks, founder and executive director of the Urban Crisis Response Center, said neighborhoods need more community organizing, community engagement and youth programs. “Once the community comes out, then — like I said, aunties and uncles comes out — a lot of times guys aren’t going to do dumb stuff because their family is out,” Starks said.

 

Qayyum said the coalition will initiate jobs projects and programs to encourage the proliferation of Black-owned businesses before the end of the year with the goal of reducing gun violence. After wielding guns himself in his youth and spending five years in jail, Solomon co-founded Endangered Kind, a community group that he co-runs that addresses issues in the neighborhood.

 

Solomon said North Philadelphia neighborhood was in a “state of survival,” where residents were fearful and many carry guns because of that fear.

“When I wake up and come out here, I just know it’s danger,” he said. “There’s good things about the neighborhood, but you can’t deny the fact that it’s dangerous out here.”

 

Solomon said he believed there remains a disconnect between community leaders and those causing the violence. “We haven’t been effective at being proactive,” Solomon said. “We can come to a rally or press conference, it doesn’t take any work to do that,” he added. “You know: Somebody gets killed, we come out here and we speak. That’s easy; that’s the easy part.

But to actually be proactive and connect with these guys on a personal level to even begin to have a chance to stop the issue, that’s a whole other ballgame.”

Find the original article by Bastiaan Slabbers here https://whyy.org/articles/juneteenth-a-vibrant-celebration-of-freedom/. To translate, please visit Google Translate and select your language.

The rhythm of African drums swelled and bounced off Center City high rises as floats rounded City Hall on Saturday during the annual Juneteenth parade, commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865.

For the third year, floats rolled from City Hall to Penn’s Landing in a vibrant celebration of African culture and traditions. Participant Leighdy Morris, Queen of the RBG Brigade, said the celebration should be a national holiday similar to the Fourth of July.

On the second float of the parade a band performed the Redemption Song by Bob Marley. A few light drops of rain did not seem to hinder the participants as they made their way over the parade route.

Among the participants in the parade were Kenneth Gamble of music producing duo Gamble & Huff, Congressman Dwight Evans, Sheriff Jewell Williams, students, Police Explorer cadets, dance and performance ensembles, and many others.

This editorial was originally published on Philadelphia Gay News at http://www.epgn.com/opinion/editorials/13333-survival-of-the-fittest

 

May 3, 2018

Kristen Demilio

This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article headlined, “Sheriff sale ads: A bonanza for the politically connected in Philly.” The paper is the city’s second-largest recipient of sheriff’s ads, at $1,613,157, only behind the Legal Intelligencer at $1,812,244 annually.

The articled conflated two issues: the private-contractor system by which sheriff’s ads are placed in Philadelphia-area publications, and the fact that minority news organizations receive those same ads.

PGN places sheriff’s ads in its pages through a relationship with political operative and ad broker Ken Smuckler. The Inquirer did not disclose its own relationship with Smuckler and his connection to Gerry Lenfest, the Inquirer’s funder.

But most important is how the Inquirer exploits a 1976 law for which it lobbied to enhance the paper’s own profits at the expense of minority and LGBT media.

The Inquirer benefits from the law, which requires that sheriff’s ads be placed in a general-interest newspaper and a local legal publication. But circulation rates in that general-interest paper have declined over the years and, in its place, smaller news outlets targeting specific populations have filled in the gaps of local, independent journalism, all while remaining profitable (as PGN is).

The substance of the Inquirer’s article looking at whether middle brokers are needed to replace ads is undermined by the snarky and dismissive tone the reporters used toward multicultural media outlets.

Despite the overwhelming advantages enshrined in the law, the Inquirer’s current survival is sustained not by paying customers, but by Lenfest literally donating The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com to the Institute for Journalism in New Media so that it can receive funding beyond the sheriff’s ads.

PGN survives by its journalism. Why can’t the Inquirer?

 

This was originally posted by Philadelphia Free Press. You can find the original piece here http://philadelphiafreepress.com/philadelphia-inquirer-seems-to-want-to-keep-public-notice-from-the-public-p7318-1.htm

Wed, May 23, 2018

By Jim Haigh

Special to the University City Review

A few weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a deep dive into the fascinating domain of public notice. This is advertising that is required by law to be published in a newspaper, and is generally paid for by a governmental entity or stakeholders in a legal proceeding. The object of the INKY’s attention was the notice required for Sheriff Sales, and they took the tone of righteous watchdog in bashing both the Sheriff -- and all publications not named Inquirer or Daily News (or Legal Intelligencer) -- for bringing public notice to the public.

Readers of “Sheriff sale ads: A bonanza for the politically connected in Philly” can be excused for coming away with a sense of waste, fraud, abuse and dirty dealings. Because that was the obvious intent of the inflammatory headline, dramatic prose and sidebars on spending by the individual media outlet. But while INKY readers can be excused, the paper cannot: it was a self-serving, misleading and otherwise undemocratic smear job on both competitors and public notice.

A more accurate headline would read: “As INKY circulation shrinks, raises ad rates, Sheriff seeks more outlets to notify public, boost sales,” because that is, in fact what is really going on. A legitimate investigation into government malfeasance would enumerate harms, and would also be transparent in revealing any conflicts of interest held by the journalistic enterprise. The Inquirer failed horrifically on both counts. They failed to report that actual Sheriff Sale revenues have gone up dramatically with public notice being shared with more of the public. They failed to reveal the extent to which their far-ranging public notice monopoly is a “bonanza” to their bottom line -- and that they have directly lobbied against reforms that would bring more notice to more of the public.

As it turns out, the Sheriff’s decision to do what businesses do in the private sector -- treat advertising as an investment -- resulted in a “bonanza” in collections, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Here’s the money quote from PGN publisher Mark Segal in his blistering rebuttal to the hit piece, “The Inquirer did not make clear that from 2012 to 2017, since the expansion of multi-cultural advertising and changes in the Sheriff’s office, the collection of delinquent taxes and fees from the Sheriff’s office rose from $27 million to $61 million. According to the Sheriff’s office, $248.9 million has been contributed to the city tax roles since 2013.” So for all the facts and figures uncovered, strung together with innuendo of fraud and belittlement of loyal readers of all hometown papers not owned by Philadelphia Media Network, how can anyone believe they somehow missed the bigger, inconvenient truth: more notice to more of the public leads to better results?

When the blowback subsides, the INKY hatchet job on Sheriff Sale advertising will probably just be a blip on the longer arc of pay-to-read newspapers attacking rivals seeking to compete for legal advertising and public notice. While Sheriffs have discretion to operate more like the private sector in their advertising planning, the vast majority of local government bodies -- cities, boroughs, townships, counties -- can only advertise in a paid subscription model newspaper. Across our Commonwealth, community papers that have been delivered free to every neighbor in town for generations are not an option for official public notice, mandated by law to be published and paid for with local tax dollars. This paper, along with its trade association, the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association, have fought long and hard to change the law last modified in 1976. But in the face of logic, economics, proven results like the Philly Sheriff’s -- and in spite of the downward spiral of paid circulation -- publications including the Inquirer have been able to convince state legislators that public notice law dating back to Jimmy Carter’s peanut whistle is still in the public’s best interest.

Stay tuned....

Jim Haigh

Advocate for Local Media & Small Business

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