Pittsburgh’s New Transit Fare Enforcement Methods Raise Deportation Fears

Cashless system brings more riders into contact with transit police. 

Pittsburgh (Credit: Hannaford)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

As immigrant communities worried about deportation begin to forgo healthcare and food stamps and worry that selling tacos on the street (a practice that was technically illegal, though rarely enforced, until the Los Angeles City Council decriminalized it several months ago), another potential “check-point” seems to be emerging in Pittsburgh: transit fare collection.

The new system “will have armed officers issuing citations and checking riders who don’t pay their fares for criminal warrants,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

It’s reportedly part of the Port Authority’s effort to switch to a cashless fare system for light-rail riders. Police will use machines to check riders’ “ConnectCards” or vouchers, and those who haven’t paid will get a first-time warning, then face a fine of up to $300.

But critics of the new policy worry that bringing riders face-to-face with police over transit ticketing could have consequences beyond warnings or fines.

The Post-Gazette reports:

Molly Nichols of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, part of a coalition that questioned the authority as it developed the policy, said its members have asked for a meeting with authority executives and board leaders. The group particularly is concerned that checking for warrants could lead to residents being detained by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, possibly leading to deportations.

According to an Authority spokesperson, police will conduct systematic group checks and the system “is designed to avoid any chance of racial profiling,” the Post-Gazette reports. But some have called for civilian checkers to enforce the payments, rather than law enforcement.

As with food stamps and health care, mistrust of the Port Authority decision is likely colored both by what has already happened (the Port Authority Police have a pretty poor reputation among the local immigrant community) and by the anti-immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

As Jen Kinney recently wrote for Next City, even municipal IDs — which are supposed to help people lacking social security cards or drivers’ licenses — are now a source of concern for sanctuary cities and advocates representing the undocumented. In New York, the City Council crafted legislation regarding the IDs, that would “allow all personal information to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case an anti-immigration politician won the White House.”

Kinney writes:

Now, with nearly a million people signed up and Trump making good on his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, the city can’t shred that data as planned. A bill introduced in the state senate would go even further, requiring the sanctuary city to turn over information to the Department of Homeland Security.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

Follow Rachel .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tags: transit agenciesimmigrationpittsburgh

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 1109 other sustainers such as:

  • Anonymous at $10/Month
  • Emily at $60/Year
  • Nelson at $5/Month

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

has donated ! Thank you 🎉