Immigration activists say a state law that allows police officers to impound the vehicles of drivers who cannot produce their licenses is hurting many Latinos in Arizona.
At a news conference Tuesday in downtown Phoenix, Aldo Castañeda of the Phoenix Immigration Center and Roberto Reveles of Somos America announced they will host an event at South Mountain Community College today to educate people about the law and how it works. Members of law enforcement, the Mexican Consulate, activists and people who have had their cars impounded will talk about the law.
The law, which has been enforced since August 2005, allows police officers to impound vehicles for 30 days for the following reasons:
• A person cannot show evidence of having a driver’s license issued in Arizona or any other jurisdiction.
• The license is revoked or suspended.
• The person has been in a crash and does not have proper documentation.
• The person is drinking and driving.
According to the activists, the impounding of vehicles makes it particularly hard for people who came to the U.S. illegally because it leaves them without a car to get to work each day. The towing costs, fines and storage fees are sometimes so high that people cannot afford them. And even when drivers can afford it, it’s very difficult to get the car released to them without a proper license and proof of registration.
“The law requires them to have (licenses), and yet, the law denies them the privilege of getting a driver’s license,” Reveles said. “That’s a Catch-22.”
Reveles said he knows of one man in Mesa who left his registration and title inside the car after it was towed. When the man tried to retrieve the car, he could not get access to his paperwork to prove the car was registered to him.
Castañeda said he has concerns about the law and the way it’s being enforced. In some cases, he said immigrants have had their cars impounded even though they had valid driver’s licenses not issued in the U.S. He said that immigrants are sometimes told the licenses are false, and he questioned what criteria police use to make such a determination.
He also said he felt that in some cases, immigrants have not been properly informed by police about the process to get their cars removed from the impound lot.
The activists say they hope today’s forum will help clear up some confusion.
What: Mano A Mano Unidos and other immigration groups discuss the impounding of vehicles
When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., today
Where: South Mountain Community College auditorium, 7050 S. 24th Street, Phoenix
Information: (623) 915-3162 or