Oakland Latinos feel unfairly targeted

March 11, 2009 6:52:54 PM PDT
Latino residents in Oakland are furious about a campaign to make the streets safer that makes them feel like victims. They say police have unfairly targeted Latinos during checkpoint stops. So they took their frustrations to City Hall.

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Antonio Vivanco's son was deported to Mexico less than two weeks after he was stopped for a broken tail light and caught driving without a license in Oakland.

"I feel really sad because it was just for not having a light or a license," said Vivanco.

Many Latinos say they've been unfairly caught in a recent crackdown on traffic crimes by Oakland police and disproportionately pulled over in a series of check points.

Those in the Bay Area illegally have had their cars towed for driving without a license, and in Vivanco's son's case, deported.

Father Rigo Caloca-Rivas works with the undocumented. he says they're terrified.

"I know of families that have stopped taking their kids to school because of the fear that they might be stopped by the police or ice agents," said Father Caloca-Rivas.

On Wednesday, community organizers took their frustrations to City Hall for a meeting with the mayor and police brass.

"The Oakland Police Department does not target any specific group," said Captain Rick Orozco from the Oakland Police Department.

Captain Rick Orozco says statistics tell a different story. The check points have taken place all around the city. Of the 46 enforcement efforts last year, only seven were in the city's predominately Latino neighborhoods.

"There's that misconception that we're working with ICE and INS and that's simply not the case," said Captain Orozco.

Business owners on a heavily Latino stretch of International Boulevard say so many people have had their cars towed that it's now impacting their business.

"There is a lot of police in the streets and highway patrol and the check points. They scare the customers," said El Huarache Azteca owner Juan Chavez.

"Why the police is coming only this area? Because it's a Latin area. They don't go put a stop in city center Oakland or only right here with the Latin people," said a store owner.

But in some cases, police say they have no choice. In the case of Antonio Vivanco's son, police say they had to turn him in because federal immigration authorities had been looking for him.

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