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Racial Disparities at DUI Checkpoints suggests Collusion between Chicago Police and ICE

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.

Disproportionate Targeting

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.

Disproportionate Penalties

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 […].”

While the risk of deportation under the 2014 guidelines, is of course the more concerning issue in long-run, the risk of detainment is equally problematic. In a statement provided by Organized Communities against Deportations (OCAD):

“ICE can use this recently fabricated category as license to show up at a person’s home, apprehend them without warning, hold them in a detention facility for months or even years, and, finally, deport them—without any regard for the person’s familial or community ties, fulfillment of legal obligations, efforts taken to remedy past mistakes, or even if the offense happened decades ago.”

Disproportionate Targeting + Disproportionate Penalties = Disproportionate Treatment

When putting the two together, it is easy to see why pro-immigrant activists have joined together to voice concerns over race-based policing tactics that essentially ‘aide and abet’ the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Probed by OCAD with concerns, Mayor Emanuel responded that action has been taken “to welcome and protect Chicago’s diverse immigrant communities,” while also contesting the accuracy of data which clearly indicates that DUI checkpoints are targeting minority communities.

Immigration Attorney Sofia Zneimer is dedicated to the belief that justice and equality should be both accessible and attainable for all. If you or a loved one have an issue or concern regarding this recent development, or over another immigration law matter, we urge you to contact us.