YORK, Pa. - A new policy will change how Pennsylvania State Police handle stops in regards to foreign nationals. It all started two years ago when CASA, an organization serving Latino and immigrant populations in York County, was alarmed by an uptick in calls to their office.
"People calling our office saying their husband, their wife, their son, had been stopped by state police," said Elizabeth Alex, CASA Regional Director. "And was now in ICE custody."
Alex says in many cases, Latino-looking passengers in cars pulled over by Pennsylvania State Police were being questioned about their immigration status. If they couldn't immediately prove they were in fact U.S. citizens, ICE was being called. This exact scenario is what immigration lawyer Craig Shagin says his firm was repeatedly seeing.
"Nobody has the right to stop you because you have black hair, brown eyes and look to speak Spanish," said Shagin. "Or speak Spanish or German for that matter."
When this issue was brought to the Governor's office, a determination was made to set guidelines for troopers. The new policy, AR 7-14, gives troopers more detailed information about what they can and can not do when stopping foreign nationals. For instance, they can not arrest or detain someone based solely on immigration status, and there are now detail steps on when ICE should be contacted.
"It's not giving immunity to anybody or protecting anybody from the law," said Shagin. "But it's stopping aggressive tactics of trying to see if you can find somebody unlawfully present by going through people who look like they might be hispanic."
The policy went into effect January 30th and was addressed during PSP roll call. Comprehensive training will take place in the coming weeks.