Bensalem Seeks ICE Immigration Partnership Amid Opposition

Activists are opposing Bensalem officials’ plan to have township police officers assist federal authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants.

At issue is the Bucks County township’s potential participation in a program known by the legislative clause that brought it to life — 287(g). That’s a partnership initiative between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, and state or local police agencies that agree to help enforce federal immigration laws within their jurisdictions.

If approved, Bensalem would be the first Pennsylvania police agency to join with ICE.

Members of Buxmont Inclusive and Progressive, a year-old grassroots advocacy group, had planned to speak out, along with representatives of the Bucks County NAACP, Make the Road Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, a justice organization, at Monday night’s Bensalem Township Council meeting. The meeting has been postponed, due to weather conditions.

Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran said law-abiding undocumented immigrants have nothing to fear. Officers would not be checking the immigration statuses of people who work at local businesses or with whom they come into routine contact. The ICE partnership would come into play only when a crime is committed for which an officer would make an arrest, Harran said.

For instance, he said, a motorist who was pulled over for an expired inspection or broken headlight would not be questioned about immigration status. But a driver stopped and arrested for drunken driving, if undocumented, would be turned over to ICE, and from there possibly deported.

“Here’s the trick not to get deported: If you’re in this country undocumented, obey the law,” he said. “Don’t commit a crime, and you’re not going to have a problem in Bensalem Township.”

Why, he asked, would he not use any tool at his disposal to remove criminals from the community?

By Jeff Gammage for THE INQUIRER
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