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Roundtable: Underground Market For Taxi Permits, Scathing NCTD Audit, Deported Parents


Alison St. John


Amita Sharma, KPBS News

Brad Racino, inewsource

Jill Replogle, KPBS Fronteras Desk


Underground Market Taxi Permits

An underground market in the sale of scarce San Diego taxi permits is driving up fares and forcing drivers to work as many as 70 hours a week, according to a KPBS-inewsource investigation.

KPBS reporter Amita Sharma found that taxi medallions can go for up to six figures each and can sell multiple times even though taxi permits, which are public property, are not transferable in San Diego. The permits cost $3,000 each and money goes to the Metropolitan Transit System, the public agency tasked with overseeing taxi operations in San Diego.

The number of medallions is limited to 993, but there are 1,850 licensed cab drivers in the city. 125 new permits have been issued since 1989. There is also no law explicitly barring their private sale. Consequently, a shadow market has flourished.

The Metropolitan Transit System is aware of the sales, as is Mayor Bob Filner, who has indicated that he wants the city to take responsibility for taxi oversight from the MTS.

Audit Finds Deficiencies At Transit District

Major deficiencies in the operations of the North County Transit District have been revealed in an audit conducted by one of NCTD's contractors. The deficiencies put the public agency, which operates the Sprinter train and the NCTD bus system, at serious legal and financial risk.

The audit, conducted by the management consulting firm SC&H Group, echoed facts inewsource reporter Brad Racino uncovered this year in his ongoing investigations into NCTD operations. Racino has filed more than 15 stories on problems NCTD has had with its contractors, including those handling security and train and bus maintenance, since February.

The audit found that the NTCD is rife with inefficiencies, buried in paperwork, awards too many contracts without bids, has an error-prone billing process, no consistent quality control and fails to monitor its compliance with state and federal regulations.

The audit was published in September, but didn’t reach several NCTD directors until May, when NCTD CEO Matt Tucker presented the audit to the board and said he was working on improvements. Racino asked to see the improvement plan last week, and was told it doesn't exist.

Tucker would not speak to inewsource about the audit.

Parents Deported, Children Left Here

Nearly one in four immigrants deported from the U.S. between July 2010 and September 2012 has a child who is a U.S. citizen, according the Applied Research Center, publisher of the online news site Colorlines. When the parents are deported, the children stay here.

Some unauthorized immigrants are deported when they are apprehended for crimes. KPBS Fronteras reporter Jill Replogle talked with such a woman, Tania Velasquez, the mother of a 3-year-old girl. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and says she was forced to sign deportation papers.

Velazquez was deported to Tijuana, where she lives in a shelter, and her daughter is in foster care in the U.S.

To get their children back from the U.S., deported parents first need a job and a place to live. Currently, parents of U.S.-born children have a hard time proving they should not be deported. And when they are, they are subjected to extra scrutiny and hurdles not generally faced by American-born parents before they can get their children back. The Applied Research Center estimates that there are 5,000 children of deported parents living in foster care in the U.S.

The current version of the Senate immigration reform bill contains provisions that could delay or waive deportation for parents of American-born children.

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