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Pennsylvania State Police settle profiling, immigration suit

Pennsylvania State Police settled a federal lawsuit alleging that troopers routinely and improperly tried to enforce federal immigration law by pulling over Hispanic motorists on the basis of how they looked and detaining those suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, officials announced Wednesday.

The settlement pays a total of $865,000 to 10 plaintiffs, with a portion going to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. The ACLU filed the federal suit in 2019 asserting police aggressively questioned motorists and their passengers about their immigration statuses without cause or justification, and held them for federal immigration agents.

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Troopers from around the state “engaged in a pattern and practice of unlawful civil immigration enforcement that has ripped apart families, terrorized motorists, and sent a clear message to communities across Pennsylvania: the state police are in the immigration business,” said the suit, which alleged discrimination and civil rights violations.

Under the settlement, state police agreed to amend their policy to forbid troopers from enforcing civil immigration law. “PSP does not have jurisdiction with respect to civil immigration enforcement,” the new policy language says.

Troopers may not make a traffic stop based on a motorist's suspected nationality or immigration status, and may not ask questions about a person's immigration status unless it's necessary as part of a criminal investigation, according to the policy. Nor may troopers stop, search or detain someone solely based on a federal immigration detainer request.

The settlement did not require state police to admit wrongdoing. All six troopers named in the suit are still working for state police, along with a PSP supervisor who works in commercial vehicle enforcement who was also a defendant, according to an agency spokesperson.