Immigrant Rights Call for Vehicle Impound Moratorium

Article from Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:

By Monica Rodriguez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Posted: 03/07/14, 11:22 PM PST |

POMONA >> As the Department of Motor Vehicles makes preparations leading up to issuing driver’s licenses to those in the country without documents, immigrant-rights advocates here say the state agency should move quickly to provide the licenses.

Advocates are also calling on cities up and down the state to establish a moratorium on the impounding of undocumented immigrants’ vehicles.

A group of southern Pomona residents, including some from the Angela-Chanslor neighborhood, asked Pomona City Council members recently to consider establishing a moratorium on vehicle impounding.

The request was made after Pomona police conducted traffic stops that led to about 10 residents’ cars being impounded, said Benjamin Wood, an organizer with the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center who has been working with the residents.

Residents said some of those affected don’t have licenses because they lack immigration documents and asked the council to consider a moratorium since the state will be issuing licenses in January.

“A lot of different communities are pushing for moratoriums,” Wood said.

City Council members recently asked city administrators to place the matter on a future agenda.

The impounding of vehicles presents a financial burden, said Madeline Rios, chairwoman of the immigrant rights committee of the Latino-Latina Round Table of the Pomona and San Gabriel Valley.

“The state of California is saying the law will go into effect no later than January 2015,” she said. “There is no reason for (law enforcement) to continue impounding vehicles.”

But groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, don’t support a moratorium nor issuing driver’s licenses earlier.

“We were opposed to the bill in the Legislature,” said FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman. “We’re not enthusiastic about moving up the date.”

Issuing licenses to those in the country illegally to an extent “regularizes” their situation, he said. “It makes it easier for them to stay in the country illegally.”

An argument has been made is that those in the country without documents need licenses to carry out everyday activities including shopping and getting to work.

“Clearly under federal law they are prohibited from having jobs,” Mehlman said.

The DMV is working on a number of matters all leading up to issuing licenses by the start of the new year or sooner, said spokesman Armando Botello.

The department is preparing to hire and train about 1,000 employees to handle the flow of applicants, and locations are being sought for additional offices, he said.

Also, the DMV is working with the consulate offices of 17 countries as well as conducting public hearings and community workshops on the types of documents that could be used as identification, he said.

“We’re also looking at the security of documents,” Botello said. “How easy would it be to get documents and could it lead to fraud.”

Immigrant-rights advocates are watching closely at what documents DMV decides to use as identification, Rios said.

Some countries’ consulates issue identification cards but others do not or make it difficult to obtain one, Rios said.

Documents are also a concern to FAIR. Without tight controls some people could easily access documents to obtain licenses to engage in criminal activities, Mehlman said.

“The state of California is facilitating identity theft and the creation of false identities,” Mehlman said.

The DMV is recommending that while it works out the document issue people begin preparing for the written test.

The state’s Driver Handbook is available by going to or at DMV offices.

Reach the author at or follow Monica on Twitter: @PomonaNow

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