By Jason Hopkins
Police across the state of Pennsylvania have been slapped with severe restrictions when it comes to dealing with suspected illegal immigrants and helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
Following accusations last year of racial profiling and essentially serving as an enforcement arm for ICE, Pennsylvania police are now limited in how they deal with suspects who may be living in the country illegally. New state regulations, and even a decision by the Supreme Court, have laid out how police can lawfully handle such situations.
If a Pennsylvania state trooper pulls a car over for a traffic violation, that officer can no longer ask for identification solely to check on the suspect’s immigration status. In fact, troopers are barred from arresting any foreign national for simply being an illegal immigrant.
The new rules don’t stop there.
If a trooper does arrest an immigrant, law enforcement is required to inform the suspect of their right to contact the consulate of their home government. Troopers must also now file a comprehensive report about any interaction they have with an immigrant, detailing the reasons for their interaction or detention — the rule is meant to track any patterns of racial profiling by the officer.
Police are still capable of notifying ICE if they believe an individual is undocumented. However, a trooper could only do so after their interaction with a foreign national is over — i.e. the person has already driven away after being pulled over for a traffic violation.
The guidelines follow accusations of police wielding unrestricted authority to identify and arrest suspected illegal immigrants.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, praised the new rules, claiming it “provides clear direction for state troopers.” The governor was joined by other pro-immigration groups that lauded the guidelines.
However, one progressive group said the new restrictions don’t go far enough. In a released statement calling the moves “baby steps,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania chapter continued to accuse the state’s police force of racism.
“It it is unlikely to be enough to stop troopers’ widespread and unconstitutional practice of pulling over people of color,” said the group’s legal director Witold Walczak, according to ProPublica.
Despite the tight restrictions, Pennsylvania’s new rules are lax compared to the “sanctuary” laws passed in a growing number of Democratic-led cities and states. California, for example, has passed legislation that severely restricts how local law enforcement can work with ICE officials. Critics of California’s sanctuary law accuse it of allowing deadly criminals to remain in the country and continue committing acts of violence.
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