Pomona council to consider moratorium on impounding vehicles
By Monica Rodriguez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 04/06/14, 1:50 AM PDT |
POMONA>> A proposal calling for a moratorium on impounding vehicles driven by undocumented immigrants will go to the City Council on Monday evening.
Pomona residents and immigrants rights advocates have called on city leaders to adopt the moratorium, which bars local law enforcement from impounding vehicles when drivers are found to be unlicensed because they are undocumented.
“People simply want a bit of relief,” said Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa, who asked that the matter be placed on the agenda.
Impounds represent a significant financial burden, particularly for undocumented immigrants who often have limited incomes, residents and advocates have said.
The moratorium would last until the state Department of Motor Vehicles begins issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants under Assembly Bill 60, which passed last year. Under the legislation, licenses will be issued beginning in January 2015.
However, the City Attorney’s Office is recommending against the moratorium.
Implementing such a proposal would require police to carry out a background investigation at the time they make a stop to determine if a driver would be able to obtain a license under Assembly Bill 60, a city staff report said.
“Such investigation is believed by the Pomona Police Department to impose an unreasonable burden on individual officers in the field. For this reason, staff is recommending that the council not adopt the proposed resolution,” the staff report said.
Advocates have concerns with the recommendation.
“We are disturbed with the report coming from the City Attorney’s Office,” said Madeline Rios, chairwoman of the immigrant rights committee of the Latina-Latino Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.
A moratorium does not require officers to check the immigration status of unlicensed drivers, Rios contends.
“We’re not asking for that,” Rios said.
Carrizosa said it may be possible to find a middle ground between what exists today and a moratorium.
“Perhaps, a moratorium is not the solution,” Carrizosa said.
City leaders in the Northern California city of Sebastopol adopted a resolution in January prohibiting that city’s police from impounding a vehicle if the driver is found to be driving without a license for the first time since the resolution was enacted, according to a staff report from that city.
Carrizosa said officers may find situations where drivers commit serious violations that merit impounding their vehicles.
But, Carrizosa said, “they shouldn’t take a car for a minor violation.”
In cases involving minor violations, motorists should be cited, she said.
Rios said the city’s impound policy is a barrier to better relations between police and residents.
“The people in the city are afraid of police,” Rios said.
A moratorium on impounds would be a step toward building a better relationship with some residents that could help solve crimes, she said.
Residents might be more willing to share information that may help police solve crimes, Rios said.
About the Author
Monica covers the city of Pomona. Reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Monica on Twitter: @PomonaNow