Bensalem Won’t Cooperate with ICE to Root Out Undocumented Immigrants | Newtown News of Interest |

Bensalem officials have dropped plans to have township police officers partner with ICE agents to enforce federal immigration laws, the Bucks County Human Relations Council announced Wednesday.


The township’s proposal had drawn outrage and opposition from scores of people who packed a public hearing in January, and from organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, Bucks County NAACP, a Latino business group and several agencies that are active around immigration issues.


Currently, ICE has 287(g) agreements with 76 law enforcement agencies in 20 states. ICE has trained and certified more than 1,822 state and local officers to enforce immigration law. The program largely went dormant under President Obama, but has been revived since President Trump was elected. If approved, Bensalem would have become the first Pennsylvania police agency to join with ICE.


“I’m pleased with the outcome of our advocacy efforts, and want to thank all those who called, raised their voices, wrote letters, and signed petitions,” said Theresa Conejo, a Bensalem resident and NAACP member who helped lead the opposition. “The people’s voice was heard.” [Read “Crowd Urges Bensalem to Opt Out of Proposed Immigration Program”]


At issue was Bensalem’s potential participation in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “287(g)” program, in which ICE partners with state or local police agencies that agree to help enforce immigration laws within their jurisdictions.


ICE officials say the 287(g) program — named for a clause in federal law — strengthens public safety and helps build consistency in immigration enforcement across the country. Some local communities see the program as a way to make their towns safer, and to help catch and deport dangerous criminals.


Public Safety Director Harran earlier portrayed the proposed partnership as a tool to remove criminals from the community. Law-abiding undocumented immigrants would have nothing to fear, he said. The ICE partnership would come into play only when a crime is committed for which an officer would make an arrest, Harran said.


Bensalem, bordered by Philadelphia to the west and south, is home to 60,354 people. The population is 75 percent white, 11 percent Asian, 8 percent Latino and 7 percent black, census figures show. Nearly 11,000 are foreign-born, more than one out of five residents.