Quick Hit Aaron Cynic Tuesday June 9th, 2015, 12:12pm

Immigration Activists Push Back Against 'Racist' Chicago Police DUI Checkpoints

Community activists are calling for accountability from the City and Chicago Police Department for what they say is the disproportionate placement of DUI checkpoints in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

Last month, a Chicago Tribune investigation showed that 84 percent of all sobriety checkpoints in the city are placed in black and Latino neighborhoods, while predominantly white areas contain fewer of the monitoring stops. From February 2010 to June 2014, the Chicago Police Department scheduled 152 roadside sobriety checks. Of those, 127 were in communities of color, and no police district with a majority African-American or Latino population had fewer than five DUI checkpoints. 

Activists with the group say that the disproportionate amount of checkpoints, particularly in Latino communities, is racially motivated and harms immigrant communities by encouraging deportations.

"By targeting Latino neighborhoods, Chicago police is not only being prejudiced, it's also engaging in anti-immigrant behavior and abetting deportations," said Martin Unzueta, a member of the group Organized Communities Against Deportations, at a Monday press conference on the fourth floor of City Hall. 

Despite 25 percent of alcohol-related accidents occurring in police districts that are majority white, less than four percent of all sobriety checkpoints were conducted in those districts, the Tribune investigation showed. The Jefferson Park neighborhood, a predominantly white area where many officers live, hasn't had a checkpoint in five years, even though it ranks third among police districts for alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. 

Rosi Carrasco, an organizer with OCAD, said the disproportionate targeting of communities of color for sobriety checkpoints is racist.

"If Chicago wants to be called a welcoming city for immigrants, the Chicago Police Department must stop targeting Latino and African-American communities in the use of DUI checkpoints," said Carrasco. 

According to a memo published in November by the Department of Homeland Security, a DUI is considered a "significant misdemeanor" and is classified as the second highest priority for "apprehension and removal." A week-long operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in March resulted in 2,000 arrests of "criminal immigrants." Nearly half of those picked up had been convicted of misdemeanors, many of which were DUI's. In many of the cases, the individuals had already fulfilled their sentences. An independent study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse showed ICE deported more than 62,000 immigrants for DUI's in 2012 and 2013. 

Felipe Diosdado, who lives in Gage Park and was convicted of a DUI in 2005, said deportation could've left his family without support.

"Driving under the influence is a serious public health issue, but deporting an individual who has made a mistake and who has tried to make up for it, does not make communities safer. If I had been deported for my DUI from several years ago, the only thing that would have been achieved is leaving my family without my support," said Diosdado.

"Our communities have experienced an alarming increase in deportation of individuals charged with minor non-violent offenses, in particular DUI's," said Carrasco. "A DUI charge can lead to the deportation of Chicago families."

Organizers with OCAD say they're planning a community meeting in the Little Village neighborhood on Thursday to create a dialogue with residents about how they can address the issue with Chicago Police and the City and hold them accountable for targeting communities of color more heavily than other areas.

"For us, the most important thing is to let the community know what's happening," said Carrasco. "We hope that out of this community forum we'll have that in detail and can move forward."

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