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Immigration clinic students and faculty help draft State College Police Policy

State College Borough Manager Thomas J. Fountaine II and Police Department Chief John Gardner announced a revised policy on anti-bias-based policing and immigration crafted in collaboration with the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic.
2017 Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic Members

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As part of its ongoing work with the State College Borough, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law consulted with the borough and the State College Police Department to craft a revised policy on anti-bias-based policing and immigration. Borough Manager Thomas J. Fountaine II and Police Department Chief John Gardner announced the policy on Oct. 16.

CNET coverage of the announcement is available online (starting at the 88:52 mark).

“Our Biased Based Policing Policy has been in place for years and now, with the assistance of Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, the Department now has language in the policy providing guidance to ensure the fair treatment of everyone, regardless of citizen status,” Gardner said. “This update to our policy further emphasizes the State College Police Department commitment to all of our community members, including noncitizens. This policy further emphasizes that the women and men of the SCPD treat all persons with dignity and respect regardless of citizen status.” 

“The policy prohibits all forms of bias-based policing, which is defined as any level of police contact or other law enforcement activity that is malicious or discriminatory toward another person or group based on bias or prejudice,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants Rights Clinic. “The policy also encourages noncitizens to utilize police services and states that, as a general practice, the State College Police do not ask or collect information about immigration status. The policy also outlines two types of immigration remedies available to victims and the specific role of law enforcement.”

The State College Borough has been a client of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic for several years, collaborating with the clinic in an effort to inform the community and help shape local policy regarding immigration.  In January, the State College Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution written in collaboration with Wadhia that states the borough’s position that all people, regardless of national origin or citizen status, are welcome in State College, as well as the position that “enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.”

“Equity, inclusion, and justice are pillars of the State College community. The State College Police Department continues to show their professionalism and commitment to these pillars,” said Fountaine. “We are very grateful to have an ongoing relationship with the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic to continue working on policies and practices to make State College a welcoming community for everyone.”

Clinic students have also delivered testimony before the State College Borough Council on current immigration law and policy, held several community educational events with the borough, and provided support to Mayor Elizabeth Goreham when she endorsed an amicus brief signed by 73 mayors, cities, county executives, and counties from across the country in support of the President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

In support of this latest policy, the clinic worked with borough officials to create a one-page overview of the policy, a list of frequently asked questions, and a list of public resources about how law enforcement can play a meaningful role when immigrant victims of crime are seeking protection under the immigration laws.

The Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law engages in community outreach and education on topics such as immigration remedies for victims of crimes and changing immigration policy.  The clinic also provides legal support in individual cases of immigrants challenging deportation (removal) or seeking protection by DHS and in the courts. More information on the clinic’s local outreach and community education programs is available on the clinic’s In Our Community website.

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