For Maria Marquez and her family, the trouble began on April 9, 2017, as she drove her partner, adult son, and two young daughters through Pennsylvania.
Cruising along I-81 near Carlisle, bound for Virginia to visit family, she noticed a police car following her, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Pennsylvania State Police on Thursday. After several minutes, the trooper turned on his flashing lights, and she pulled over.
Marquez had been stopped by Trooper Luke Macke, who collaborated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, amid President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants.
In 2017, he turned over at least 19 undocumented immigrants to federal deportation officers after interrogating them about their legal status and detaining them without warrants, according to an investigation by reporters for ProPublica in collaboration with The Inquirer.
Three years of data show Macke wrote more tickets with each passing year, and increasing proportions went to Hispanics — 6.3 percent in 2015, 9.5 percent in 2016, and 14.5 percent in 2017.
In 2015, Macke issued 33 citations to Latino drivers. In 2017, that number more than tripled to 113.
On that April day, Macke approached Marquez’s window and told her she had been stopped for speeding. She was surprised that he asked only for her driver’s license, which she handed over, but not for her registration or insurance card, the suit states.
He then began asking questions about the immigration status of Marquez and the others in the sport utility vehicle, all from Brentwood, N.Y.
He asked Marquez if she had a green card, which is proof of permanent legal residency. She said she did not, but had a federally issued work permit, which she handed over.
Macke wanted to know whether her partner of five years, Cambar Matute, and her son, Lovos Marquez, were “legal or illegal.”
Why he was questioning them about their status, Marquez asked.
The trooper replied that they must show him their “papers,” that he was “working with Immigration,” the suit says. He threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Neither her partner nor her son answered Macke’s questions or provided documents.
The trooper returned to his car to check Marquez’s documents, then went back to the SUV, insisting that the two men answer his questions and provide immigration papers.
The men believed they had no choice but to comply, the suit says.
Marquez produced his Salvadoran passport. Matute handed over his Honduran identification card, a library card, and a bank card. The trooper returned to his car — a prelude, it turned out, to their detention.
Then he approached the SUV, told Marquez to step out, and escorted her to the back of the car — and again interrogated her.
How long had she been in the United States? Where did she work? How long had she worked there? Where was she going in her car?
Her two daughters, ages 8 and 11, started to cry.
None of Macke’s questions, the lawsuit says, concerned any traffic violation. ICE had not asked Macke to detain her or interrogate her, the suit notes.
Macke told Marquez to get back in her car.
An hour after the initial stop, a second trooper, whose identity remains unknown, arrived at the scene, the suit says. The troopers ordered the men out of the SUV, handcuffed them, and led them to separate police cars.
At that point, the suit says, Macke returned Marquez’s documents and handed her a speeding ticket. She asked why her partner and son were being arrested. Macke said it was because they “did not have papers.”
The men were driven to the Carlisle barracks, where they spent the next hour in handcuffs.
Two hours after the traffic stop began, the suit says, ICE agents arrived and took the men to York County Prison, which serves as a federal detention center. The two were placed into deportation proceedings, and subsequently released on bonds set by an immigration judge.