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Critics: Texas DPS wants checkpoints to target immigrants

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  • abeltranjurisdr@aol.com
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/6107662.html Critics: Texas DPS wants checkpoints to target immigrants By JAMES PINKERTON and SUSAN CARROLL The
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2008
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      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/6107662.html

      Critics: Texas DPS wants checkpoints to target immigrants

      By JAMES PINKERTON and SUSAN CARROLL

      The state agency that imposed new rules barring illegal immigrants from
      obtaining driver's licenses is requesting authority to set up statewide
      driver's license checkpoints, part of what several lawmakers suspect is
      a plan to crack down on illegal immigrants.

      A number of state legislators argue the Department of Public Safety
      Commission overstepped its authority Aug. 25 by issuing new rules
      requiring applicants to prove they are here legally before they can
      obtain or renew a Texas driver's license. Their suspicions deepened
      when, two weeks later, the commission's chairman asked Texas Attorney
      General Greg Abbott if it was legal for the commission to set up
      driver's license checkpoints.

      Staffed by state troopers or local police, the checkpoints would stop
      drivers to review their licenses, vehicle registrations and proof of
      insurance.

      State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, believes the two
      commission actions are taking aim at policing immigration.

      ''A state agency is making immigration policy for the state of Texas,
      and that is not their job," McClendon said.

      State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said when commission
      chairman Allan B. Polunsky asked Abbott's office about authorizing
      checkpoints, she figured the target was drunken drivers.

      ''But when I saw the driver's license regulations, I said, 'Maybe
      they're not after Texas' drunk drivers, but maybe they're after
      undocumented people and this is a mechanism to get them," Van de Putte
      said.

      She and 14 other Texas lawmakers sent Abbott a letter asking him to
      ignore the commission's legal opinion request because the Legislature
      has not authorized a DPS checkpoint program. It's unclear when Abbott
      will issue his opinion.

      Polunsky did not return calls for comment.

      Gov. Rick Perry favors the checkpoints, said spokeswoman Allison
      Castle. ''Police officers and law enforcement believe this is an
      important technique in protecting the public, and to that end, the
      governor supports providing our law enforcement officers with the tools
      they need to ensure public safety," Castle said.

      DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said license requirements were tightened for
      security reasons, changes other states have made since the Sept. 11
      terrorist attacks.

      ''We are not enforcing the federal immigration laws," Mange said. "We
      are ensuring that applicants for Texas driver's licenses and ID cards
      have legal presence in the United States."

      State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, called checkpoints a ''tremendous
      asset" that could cut down on drunken driving, car theft and motorists
      whose licenses have been revoked.

      ''For the people who want to eras e our borders, for people who don't
      care if our laws are broken, and for people who are driving illegally,
      and for those who think that's fine, yes, this could be a problem,"
      Riddle said.


      Random traffic stops illegal

      Checkpoints have not been allowed in Texas since the state Court of
      Criminal Appeals ruled in 1994 they must be authorized by a
      ''politically accountable governing body at the state level." That case
      involved a sobriety checkpoint in Arlington.

      In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that random traffic stops to
      check driver's licenses, where officers did not have reasonable
      suspicion, were unconstitutional.

      However, the ruling does not prevent state ''spot checks that involve
      less intrusion or that do not involve the unconstrained exercise of
      discretion," the justices wrote. ''Questioning of all oncoming traffic
      at roadblock-type stops is one possible alternative."

      DPS Capt. Jerome Powell, who supervises driver's license offices in
      Houston, said the new regulations won't stop illegal immigrants from
      driving.

      ''They have to survive and go to work," Powell said.

      No official tally exists of how many of Texas' estimated 1.7 million
      illegal immigrants have a driver's license.

      DPS officials say nearly 3 million noncitizens are among the
      approximately 20 million Texas residents who carry state documents.
      They include 1.81 million noncitizens with licenses and another 1
      million immigrants who have been issued=2 0state identity cards.

      One indicator of the undocumented component of Texas license holders
      may be the nearly 380,000 applicants who filed DPS forms since June
      2003 indicating they did not have a Social Security number.


      Concerns about profiling

      Activists worry that the new immigrant driver's licenses, along with
      checkpoints, are a recipe for profiling immigrants.

      ''Our number one concern is the potential for profiling since it puts
      the immigration identifier on the license," said Luis Figueroa,
      legislative staff attorney with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and
      Educational Fund. "It leads to potential profiling, whether it's a
      police officer who is going to scrutinize someone closer, or a landlord
      who may not want to rent out a property."

      One person who could get caught in the checkpoints is Susanne Dennis, a
      40-year-old legal immigrant from Germany.

      In 2005, she came to the U.S. on a fiancé visa after falling for her
      now-husband, Michael Dennis, a 43-year-old security technician she met
      on the Internet. After they married in Maryland, Susanne was granted a
      provisional green card and obtained a Maryland driver's license.

      Then Michael was transferred to Houston, and the coupled settled in
      Spring.

      On Oct. 29, Susanne tried to apply for a Texas driver's license at DPS
      office in Humble, only to discover she didn't have acceptable proof of
      legal status.

      Susanne had been granted a one-year extension so=2 0she could work in the
      U.S. while awaiting a permanent green card. But the form showing her
      extension was not on the list of accepted documents, so DPS turned her
      away.

      Susanne, who works in Montrose, now drives into the city each morning
      fearful of being stopped by police. She feels lucky to still have a
      valid Maryland license and car insurance through her husband.

      She's upset that she can't comply with Texas law requiring a driver's
      license within 30 days of moving to the state.

      ''What if a state trooper pulls me over?" Susanne said. ''What do I
      show him?"

      james.pinkerton@...

      susan.carroll@...


      Brought to you by the HoustonChronicle.com

      --------------------------------------------------


      http://www.bibdaily.com/
      'Temporary' checkpoint in Arizona is two years old

      "Two years ago this week, the Border Patrol set up a temporary checkpoint on Interstate 19 just South of Green Valley." KOLD, Nov. 11, 2008.


       :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

      Critics cry foul=2 0over TX license checkpoint plan

      "The state agency that imposed new rules barring illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses is requesting authority to set up statewide driver's license checkpoints, part of what several lawmakers suspect is a plan to crack down on illegal immigrants." Houston Chronicle, Nov. 12, 2008.







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