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police car, police stop - iStock/Susan Chiang iStock/Susan Chiang

At this time of heightened attention to immigration issues, the Third Circuit decision in Yoc-Us v. Attorney General of the United States, decided on July 31, 2019, provides a “teachable moment” with regard to the role of, and limits on, local law enforcement in detentions of undocumented aliens. In Yoc-Us, a Pennsylvania state trooper stopped a van for speeding. In the back seat were two undocumented aliens from Guatemala (the petitioners) who had lived and worked in New York since 2008. There were also eight other people, including the driver and the van’s owner in the front seat. After asking for the driver’s license and vehicle registration and obtaining certain information from the driver, instead of checking that information, the trooper opened the side passenger door and told all of the passengers to show their immigration papers, passport and ID. Petitioners admitted they were citizens of another country and had no such papers.

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