UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa – The Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, in collaboration with the mayor of State College, Elizabeth Goreham, hosted an educational presentation regarding immigration and local enforcement on Nov. 16 at the State College Municipal Building.
The event began with a presentation by third-year law student Tulsi Patel on the legal authority and limits for police to enforce immigration law in regard to immigration and the policy concerns raised when local police act as immigration officers, including but not limited to a reluctance by victims to report crimes; lack of resources or immigration training at the local level; and the overall risk to public safety. She also discussed safe and positive steps that local police could take.
The event included a discussion with State College Police Chief Thomas King, who affirmed many of the policy concerns raised by the presentation and further indicated that he would support a written policy that would prohibit police officers from asking about immigration status when victims and witnesses report crimes. King also championed more police officer training, given the varying cultures and backgrounds represented by the residents in State College and surrounding areas.
The event concluded with remarks from Yvette Wilson from the Centre County Women’s Resource Center and State College immigration attorney Sharon Barney, who commented on State College’s attempt to aid immigration victims and the active impact of discrimination on the undocumented population.
“So far, State College police have been doing a fairly good job in trying to meet the needs of victims,” said Barney. “However, when I work with undocumented clients and they’ve been the victim of a crime, I know that there are other law enforcement agencies that are not as friendly to the undocumented population, and it actively impacts whether they want to report their damages.”
The clinic has a history of collaborating with the community to offer free educational events to create positive change. In April 2015, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic partnered with the State College mayor in giving a presentation regarding DAPA and DACA immigration initiatives. The clinic has also worked with the Centre County Women’s Resource Center and University Mennonite Church to hold events to raise awareness about immigration law and policy.
In the clinic, students produce white papers, practitioner toolkits, and primers of national impact for institutional clients based in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. Students also engage in community outreach and education on immigration topics such as immigration remedies for victims of crimes and President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The clinic also provides legal support in individual cases of immigrants challenging deportation or seeking protection by the Department of Homeland Security and in the courts. Wadhia’s teaching goal is for students to gain the skills required to be effective immigration advocates and attorneys.
A recording of the event can be viewed here.