Suburban Pittsburgh police departments are stopping Latino immigrants for “doing nothing” at least several times a week, Sister Janice Vanderneck of the Latino Catholic Community center told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Police officials say they can’t turn a blind eye to illegal activity, and they deny any systematic effort to target Latinos. Robinson, Pa., Police Chief Dale Vietmeier, president of the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association, said local police need more training on how to deal with immigration issues. He defended his 26-officer department against charges of racial profiling. “We don’t just go out and look for somebody minding their own business,” he said. “We don’t harass them, we don’t go after them.”
Federal immigration officials don’t offer local departments advice on how to handle suspected illegal immigrants, said the agency’s Michael Gilhooly. He added, “We’ll check the immigration status of any foreign-born person in their custody if they request it.” Since May 2007, immigration lawyer Jacqueline Martinez said, she has taken on about 20 cases involving immigrants who were stopped by police and inappropriately questioned about their legal status. One immigrant was pulled over for having a broken taillight. Another was walking down the side of a highway. Yet another was painting a house.