Documentary Trailer Shows Santa Ana’s Fight to Change Checkpoint Policy


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Earlier last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the city of Los Angeles were said to be considering changes to impound policies for unlicensed drivers at supposed DUI checkpoints. The proposals are to be submitted before review by a Police Commission as well as the input of the community. January is said to be the target month for a new policy.

Activists with the Southern California Immigration Coalition have been pressuring for the changes arguing that checkpoints are much more a mechanism of racial profiling and a means by which to fleece undocumented immigrants than they are about maintaining sober roads. A concession was won earlier this year that allowed unlicensed drivers to avoid the impounding of their vehicles so long as they could contact a licensed driver to take them. SCIC activists monitored checkpoints in action and found that the guideline isn’t always followed.

With that in mind, implementation of new changes under consideration for 2012 are being demanded now. They are broader in scope aiming at reducing 30-day impound holds which impose exuberantly high fees on vehicle owners. This would apply to traffic stops as well as checkpoints.

In Orange County, a similar drive to achieve changes to impound policy has taken place in the city of Santa Ana. With its large immigrant population, checkpoints conducted by the police have been rightly criticized on similar grounds as those voiced in Los Angeles. In late September, the OC May Day Coalition and the Orange County Congregation Community Organization issued a joint press release touting a new impound policy that is fairer. As of last month, checkpoints in Santa Ana, like the one that took place last night, are to allow unlicensed drivers an allotted minimum amount of time to find a licensed driver to arrive and help avoid impounding by taking the vehicle away from the scene.

“The adoption of this policy is an important step for the city of Santa Ana. The community raised concerns, local officials responded, and the result is a policy that focuses resources and does not unfairly target working class families,” says Lucero Chavez, Immigrants Rights Attorney for the ACLU of Southern California in the press release. “It will be important for the police department to continue to be responsive to the concerns of the community and monitor the impacts of its policies.”

The change is a move in the right direction. Developments in Los Angeles will surely be looked at in terms of further activism. In the meantime, La Causa Films has released a trailer for what it promises will be a full-length documentary in the future. The film chronicles the long struggle activists have undertaken in order to pressure for a different policy rooted in basic fairness. When completed, the documentary filmmaker is looking to a screening at Santa Ana’s El Centro Cultural de Mexico once re-opened.


About Gabriel San Roman