HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation today to strong-arm counties and cities into following the demands of federal immigration authorities, creating a likelihood that counties will illegally hold people in jail as a result. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which has represented people who have been illegally detained, released a statement criticizing the legislation.

“This legislation creates a no-win situation for counties and cities that want to welcome immigrants and that know they have obligations under the constitution,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “If this bill becomes law, people will be held in jail when they should not be held. We are prepared to challenge illegal detentions when they occur.”

Introduced by Senator Guy Reschenthaler of Allegheny County, the legislation, Senate Bill 10, withholds all state grant funding, including grants for 911 service and transportation infrastructure, from local governments that do not follow every “immigration order” from the federal government. It also holds counties liable for damages if they release someone after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a detainer request and the person later commits “injury to person or property.” The bill does not define “injury to person or property.”

ICE detainer requests are requests from ICE to a local government to detain someone for a period of time to allow the federal agency to investigate their immigration status. The detainer requests are not reviewed by a court and are not supported by a finding of probable cause.

Federal case law covering Pennsylvania has held that counties are liable if they illegally detain someone. As a result, 33 counties in Pennsylvania have written policies or practices to not honor ICE detainer requests.

“The federal government cannot commandeer local governments into following its demands,” said Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “This legislation is not grounded in the rule of law and is simply the pursuit of an anti-immigrant agenda.”

SB 10 now heads to the state House of Representatives for its consideration.