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PA bans police from arresting, questioning illegal immigrants over legal status

Pennsylvania State Police (Niagara/WikiCommons)
February 08, 2019

Pennsylvania state police will soon be barred from asking questions about immigration status during traffic stops, or conducting arrests over legal status.

The procedure to get this law implemented has been ongoing since 2018 when critics argued that Pennsylvania State Police had no protocol in place stopping them from “racial profiling and unlawful arrests,” according to Pro Publica on Tuesday.

The new law was enacted last week and will implement a new standard that will oversee how the State Police handle foreign nationals.

The Supreme Court ruled that it is “unconstitutional to prolong traffic stops beyond the time it takes to address the traffic violation and that detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns,” Pro Publica stated.

The new policy will require the State Police to get in touch with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after contact has concluded with a foreign national. Arresting an immigrant over legal status is a civil matter and not in the jurisdiction of State Police, but rather that of ICE.

Part of the new law will also ban the arrest of individuals solely for their immigration status, KDKA 2 News reported. Upon any non-immigration arrest of the refugee, ICE must be advised and could intervene, if necessary.

However, State Police can still lawfully use the means available to confirm a positive identification of a refugee during a traffic stop, arrest or lawful detention.

The new law is intended to eliminate concerns of constitutional rights violations through illegal searches and seizures, as well as racial profiling.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf supports the new law, saying it “provides clear direction for state troopers,” KDKA said.

Randy Capps, director of research at the Migration Policy Institute, called it a “sensible middle-ground policy.”

He added that it will pacify the federal government and work to uphold the Constitution at the same time.

Documentation of all incidents with foreign nationals will require stringent policy enforcement and Capps said it may “deter the officer from engaging in racial profiling.”

Ricky Palladino, an immigration lawyer in Philadelphia said about 30 percent of his clients’ legal problems started with a traffic stop. “This was a huge step forward,” he added.

Andy Mahon, an immigration lawyer in Lancaster said, “That will definitely make it easier to argue egregiousness.”

Sundrop Carter, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition said, “That is the exact loophole we want closed. The policy is better than nothing, which is what they had before. But it falls very short of what we were thinking.”

The Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU called it a “baby step.”