Recently addresses in our accident blog, was the issue of DUI checkpoints that disproportionately target minority communities in Chicago’s 22 districts. Intertwined with this issue, though, is a much deeper one, which pro-immigrant activists say suggests possible collusion between Chicago Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For undocumented immigrants, the impact of Chicago’s approach to selecting sobriety checkpoints locations can be described as two-fold, because not only are they targeted more frequently, but they also face harsher consequences. As immigration attorneys, we take issue with sobriety checkpoints being used as a tactic to detain and deport immigrants, rather than a means to reduce and prevent drunk driving.
Crash data shows that alcohol-related incidents occur at similar rates in all communities, irrespective of racial make-up. Yet, more than 80% of DUI checkpoints are placed in minority neighborhoods. Because, undocumented immigrants often reside in these minority communities, the potential for encountering a sobriety checkpoint is far greater.
Under Illinois law, driving under the influence is considered a ‘class A misdemeanor offense’. ICE, though, classifies them as a “significant misdemeanor,” which by definition, is defined as:
“an offense of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence, or if not an offense listed above, one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more […].”
For immigrants, simply being charged with an offense classified as a ‘significant misdemeanor’ can be devastating, regardless as to whether conviction for the crime actually occurs. Under policy guidelines “for the apprehension, detention and removal of undocumented immigrants,” issued by President Obama in November 2014, offenses categorized as “significant misdemeanors” are ranked amongst the highest priority for deportation. Consequently, undocumented immigrants charged with DUI face deportation, unless they qualify for asylum, other relief, or “there are factors indicating that the alien is not a threat to national security, border security, or public safety […].”
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