HARRISBURG — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), alleging the agency ethnically profiled ten Latino drivers and passengers, who were stopped, questioned about their immigration status, and detained for prolonged periods until federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrived. 

The settlement in Marquez, et al. v. Commonwealth, et al. includes compensation for the plaintiffs and changes to PSP policy. 

“This is an important settlement for our clients. Our investigation found that the six incidents described in the lawsuit were the tip of the iceberg, reflecting a pattern of discrimination by state troopers against Latinos and people of color,” said Vanessa Stine, immigrant rights attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Racial profiling and discrimination have no place in law enforcement.”

As part of the settlement, Pennsylvania State Police will update its policy that governs trooper interactions with immigrants. These changes include prohibiting police from prolonging stops for the purposes of civil immigration enforcement and ending immigration status checks when checking a driver’s identification.

“The reason we filed this lawsuit is because we don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” said Rebecca Castro, one of the clients represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The police don’t know how many lives they affect on a daily basis. We hope our victory means that this will never happen again.”

In 2018, Ms. Castro was driving with her now-husband and a co-worker in York County when a Pennsylvania State Police trooper pulled over the vehicle and began to interrogate the group because the vehicle “looked suspicious.” The trooper wrongfully detained Ms. Castro and her passengers for several hours, interrogating them on the side of the road about their immigration status and detaining them until ICE officers arrived.      

“Police officers who take it upon themselves to try and enforce immigration law are continuing a long legacy of harmful policing that must be challenged at every turn,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We are pleased that the state police will be addressing the problem, but other Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies should be on notice that, if they violate the law and attempt to enforce civil immigration law, they too can count on getting sued.”

The settlement provides for a total payout to plaintiffs of $865,000, which includes attorneys’ fees. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Witold Walczak and Vanessa Stine of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Jonathan Feinberg of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP; Mark Taticchi, Emmanuel Brown, Elizabeth Casey, Charles Lange, and Amanda Pasquini of Faegre Drinker; and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

You can find more information about the lawsuit and settlement at aclupa.org/marquez-psp.