ACLU suing State Police over alleged racial profiling

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania State Police are facing a second federal civil rights lawsuit in three months on allegations of racial profiling and illegally enforcing immigration policies. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed the suit today in U.S. Middle District Court on behalf of 10 motorists, all Latinos, claiming they were unlawfully retained, sometimes for hours, while their immigration status was investigated. A similar suit was filed in April for an incident in Carlisle in April of 2017.

The newest lawsuit names the State Police and seven troopers as defendants. It details five separate incidents from 2017 and 2018. Two of the cases occurred in Cumberland County, one in York County, one in Adams County and one in Bucks County. Trooper Luke Macke is named in two of the cases. In each case, the lawsuit alleges the traffic stops were engaged for the sole purpose of investigating the immigration status of the drivers and/or occupants of the vehicles. drivers or their passengers, both, in some cases, were questioned by the police about their immigration status. The lawsuit describes troopers repeatedly asking drivers and passengers for their “papers,” often without actually investigating a motor vehicle violation, and refusing to allow the drivers and passengers to go free until the troopers had contacted federal immigration authorities.

“Emboldened by President Trump’s vitriol, state police troopers ramped up their targeting of Latinx people traveling in Pennsylvania,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit alleges that the troopers  violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The suit also claims that the State Police violated a federal anti-discrimination law because state police administrators knew about the discriminatory conduct and failed to correct it. The first case detailed in the lawsuit is the same one detailed in the complaint filed in April, involving a traffic stop Macke made on Interstate 81 at Carlisle in April 2017, of driver Maria Marquez. Two of the men in her vehicle ended up being detained by ICE.

The ACLU is seeking unspecified financial damages for the plaintiffs.  The Pennsylvania State Police have a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Trooper Brent Miller, Communications Office Director, issued this statement:

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) released Administrative Regulation 7-14, Arrest/Detention or Death of Foreign Nationals, at the end of January as a result of 18 months of work with internal and external stakeholders, including immigration activists, to develop a policy for Department personnel who come into contact with foreign nationals while on duty.

AR 7-14 strikes the appropriate balance between a trooper’s role as a law enforcement officer and public servant.  AR 7-14 was designed to provide clear, unambiguous guidance in situations in which undocumented foreign nationals are encountered, bringing the department into compliance with current federal and state law and applicable court precedents. More specifically, the policy is in accord with 8 USC 1373, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court case of Arizona v. United States.

The regulation that was posted at the end of January is still in place and can be read in its entirety here:  https://www.psp.pa.gov/contact/Pages/RTKL-REGULATIONS-AND-OPERATIONS-MANUALS.aspx.

The PSP has trained its members and deployed internal reporting mechanisms to facilitate on-going compliance monitoring.

You can read the filing here:  Marquez_et_al._v._Commonwealth_et_al._amended_complaint

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.