ACLU Report on Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices

SAN DIEGO – Escondido’s checkpoints and impound policies negatively impact low-income immigrant families, businesses, and the community in general, says the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in a report released today called “Wrong Turn: Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined.” The report looks into the motivations that appear to have led Escondido’s civil leaders and law enforcement officials to embrace checkpoints and impound practices that bring millions of dollars into city coffers and threaten undocumented individuals and those in mixed-status families. Wrong Turn details the rapid increase in towing fees in Escondido and raises questions about the city’s compliance with state laws and grant requirements.

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While cities across California have changed their checkpoint and impound policies in response to concerns about the intrusive nature and ineffectiveness of these policies, the City of Escondido has implemented one of the most extreme checkpoints and impound policies in the state. The report shows how the checkpoints have become de facto immigration checkpoints and describes Escondido’s other unusual immigration enforcement programs, including a collaboration between Escondido Police Department and the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

“Escondido’s checkpoint and impound program continues to raise serious concerns,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the San Diego ACLU. “Escondido appears to be justifying discriminatory policies that negatively affect the immigrant population in Escondido. The city instead should be advancing programs and policies that promote safety and unity, not fear and intimidation.”

“When the city of Escondido decided to take on the federal role of immigration enforcer, it lost track of what it is that makes the community come together and thrive,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, community engagement and organizing director of the San Diego ACLU. “The ACLU hopes that Escondido will address the concerns raised in this report, and get back to ensuring that its residents are safe and secure and that its policies do not unfairly impact low-income immigrant families.”

The report also includes new information uncovered by documentary journalist John Carlos Frey suggesting that the City of Escondido may be illegally profiting from tow fees, tow contracts and grants received from California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). State law requires cities to charge tow companies no more than the actual costs of the city’s expenses involved in administering towing. Escondido’s calculations of its actual expenses have skyrocketed since 2004 and include creative and suspect expenses.

Watch a short video by John Carlos Frey to hear directly from community members who are affected by Escondido’s policies.

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