August 29, 2003

LULAC Affirms Call For Federal Probe
Questioning Corruption and Profiting by the City of Maywood

WASHINGTON, DC — The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announced it is supporting a call for a federal investigation into charges by Latinos in Southern California involving the confiscation of thousands of autos.

“We are outraged and demand an immediate investigation into growing reports that local law enforcement in Maywood, California appear to be preying on Latino drivers,” said Hector Flores, LULAC National President. “These motorists are being regularly stopped at checkpoints under the guise of traffic safety and losing their vehicles through tactics that smack of nothing less than shameless profiteering at the expense of the poor,” he added.

According to Comité Pro Uno, a community-based organization in Maywood, as many as 1,800 vehicles were confiscated by local police for traffic violations during a recent 12-month period alone. The expense of recovering an individual auto averaged between $1,000 to $1,600. Numerous complaints gathered by Pro Uno allege the illegal removal during impound storage of equipment on the vehicles such as stereos, speakers, tires and rims. Other items alleged to have been stolen include personal property such as tools and other items that drivers were not allowed to take out at the time of confiscation.

“It is inconceivable to us and unconscionable that police would conduct what amounts to nothing more than street raids on a specific population. Now more than ever LULAC is calling for the immediate passage of SB 60, a bill enabling undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid driver’s license. If Latinos had driver’s licenses they would be protected from loosing their vehicles. Our roads would be safer as well because by preparing for the driver’s license exam immigrants will improve their knowledge of U.S traffic laws and be qualified for automobile insurance,” stated Flores.

Comité Pro Uno has requested a probe by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Relations. Specifically, Pro Uno is asking that investigators review cases supporting their claims as well as examine any possible ties between City of Maywood elected officials and the owner of the private tow company with the exclusive contract to impound, store and auction confiscated vehicles.

“LULAC supports the local community leaders in Maywood who have been trying for years to end the practice of selective enforcement of the law. It is clear that we need a solution to the problem of unlicensed drivers in California; however, using existing traffic statutes simply as a means to seize people’s property is not the solution. The real crime here should not be that unlicensed drivers drive out of a need to survive by going to work or taking their children to school, it should be that some police and politicians knowingly profile and prey on individuals to fatten their coffers,” concluded Flores.

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