Wednesday, April 22, 2009
SAN DIEGO The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of Hispanic groups have demanded that the city of Escondido change its driver's license checkpoints, calling them "fishing expeditions" that are intended to identify and deport illegal immigrants.
At a press conference Tuesday, the ACLU said police should record the interactions between drivers and officers, list the ethnicity of drivers to help prevent racial profiling and appoint a monitoring committee to oversee conduct at the checkpoints.
"Driver's license checkpoints are fishing expeditions for illegal immigrants," said Andrea Guerrero, field and policy director for the ACLU in San Diego.
The ACLU was joined by El Grupo, a coalition of Hispanic organizations that opposes the policy and called for Police Chief Jim Maher to step down.
"There is a strong and now indelible perception within the Latino community that the Escondido police chief and the department are working hand-in-hand with immigration authorities," said Victor Torres, an attorney and a spokesman for El Grupo.
Officers conduct checkpoints about twice a month for two hours on a busy street in the city in northern San Diego County, looking for drivers without licenses or with licenses that have been suspended or revoked.
Maher said at his own press conference if a warrant check shows the driver is an illegal immigrant wanted by authorities they are turned over.
Maher said that in 17 checkpoints last year just one person was deported, after police checked her criminal background and learned she was wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The woman was turned over to the federal agency.
Maher said the stops are intended only to improve public safety and do not target any particular group.
"There are many in this community that are trying to explain to the immigrant community that we are not on their side," the chief said. "They want the immigrant community to believe that we should not be trusted and that they should fear us."