LOS ANGELES – A California state senator says that the seizure of vehicles from undocumented workers without driver’s licenses is an inhumane measure because of the high costs it imposes on families with scanty resources.
“It’s inhumane for the police to take the cars from the workers because they don’t have a license and they leave all the things they carry inside the vehicles thrown onto the sidewalk,” Democrat Gil Cedillo told Efe.
The policy “is cruel and humiliating for a community of immigrants of 2.5 million who still don’t have documents in California,” the senator said.
On Oct. 4, 1993, then-Gov. Pete Wilson signed into law a measure that eliminated the privilege of obtaining a driver’s license for undocumented immigrants.
Since 1998, Cedillo has promoted a bill to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. California’s current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed the measure on two occasions since 2005.
“The solution is to let the undocumented immigrants have their license as it was for more than 60 years before they changed the law,” Cedillo said.
There is fear among the people affected by the measure, and a worker who asked to be identified only as “Toño” told Efe that he had had a driver’s license for 14 years, but after the law entered into effect he could not renew it.
“I work at night in a printing shop and on Sept. 1 (2009) I was going home in Long Beach when the police stopped me,” Toño recalled.
“The document I have is the Mexican consular identification card, and they checked that name in the computer and my license came up but it says ‘suspended,’” he said.
“On Jan. 26, I went to court and told the judge that I opted for losing the vehicle and I only paid the fine of $625.”
He said that the automobile was his brother’s and that he preferred to pay him $600 for the vehicle than to pay $1,700 to get it out of the impound lot, and so now he has problems getting to his night job.
In Glendale, Salvadoran Oscar Ibañez told Efe that the police took his vehicle from him two months ago.
“I had bought that car four days before for $1,400. The police detained me because the plates in the name of the person who sold it to me were expired,” he said.
“I told them that I didn’t have a license. They took it and to get it out after a month I would have had to pay $1,300, and so I preferred to lose it. I’ve requested an extension to pay off the fine of $487 because I don’t have the money to pay it right now,” he added.
Maria Rico was stopped last week in Sonoma County in her vehicle that was being driven by an undocumented friend.
“I don’t remember how much the fine was that they put on my friend, but since the car is mine I’m going to have to pay $200 for the tow truck, and for each day in the police (impound) lot I have to pay $45 and they don’t release it sooner than a month. In total, it’s going to be $1,600,” she said.
“I’m going to take the few dollars I have out of the bank and the rest I’m going to look for someone to loan it to me, because the car is worth more than that,” she said.
Juan Jose Gutierrez, the representative for the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, told Efe that “since the administration of President Barack Obama began the checkpoints for undocumented people all over the country have increased.”
“At times, it’s with the excuse of detecting drunk drivers, but the result is that they detain immigrants without documents, they confiscate their cars and in many cases they take (the immigrants) before the immigration authorities to deport them,” Gutierrez said. EFE