CHICAGO – Drunk driving or driving without a license can be a shortcut to deportation, according to a pamphlet distributed among undocumented worshippers at Our Lady of the Americas Episcopal Church in Chicago.
Illinois has tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who drive daily without a license or car insurance, and among them a high percentage are detained for DUI.
Despite the fact that in Cook County, where Chicago is located, a “sanctuary” ordinance protects the undocumented from police questioning about their immigrant status, and that since last September county jails do not hand over the undocumented to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a high percentage are still being deported.
Latin American Herald Tribune
“And we’re the ones who collaborate most with immigration – we’re deporting ourselves,” activist Jesus Vargas told Efe.
“Our people apparently don’t understand that they can’t drink and drive, or that DUI is considered a danger to the community and will send them straight to the immigration authorities,” he said in an interview.
Other common crimes that become really serious for the undocumented include arrest for drug use, solicitation by prostitutes, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
According to Vargas, “going around with a fake ID, insurance document or driver’s license” are federal crimes that don’t even give a person the chance to appear before a judge. “Deportation is automatic,” he said.
The church, located in the heavily Latino neighborhood of Logan Square, decided to help its faithful by distributing the pamphlet “No Te Deportes” (Don’t Deport Yourself).
It’s a guide in Spanish about the different types of crime and what to do in case of arrest.
Vargas said that many undocumented immigrants are detained in the suburbs, have their fingerprints taken and suddenly a record of drunk driving or driving without a license comes to light. In some cases they can spend a couple of years in jail before being deported.
The activist said that immigrants often have no awareness of the seriousness of domestic violence, which could mean not only hitting or abusing the spouse, but also punishing children for getting poor grades at school.
“Though the child doesn’t report it, the school might do so because they realize what might be happening,” he said.
The better informed people are, the fewer mistakes they’ll make, and also the fewer excuses there will be for authorities to investigate an undocumented stopped in the street for a minor traffic infraction, Vargas said.
Amalia Lopez, currently in the process of deportation, told Efe that the undocumented desperately need the judges’ understanding.
“If they send me back to (the western Mexican state of) Michoacan, I have no idea what I’ll do, things are very tough there,” she said.
For his part, Victor Manuel Arroyo, also awaiting deportation, said that many people come to the United States without knowing what life is like here. “They think it’s just about coming here to work, but they have to be careful what they talk about in the streets, because sometimes people can deport themselves,” he said.
The leaflet advises the undocumented “not to say or sign anything” about their immigration status in case of detention. “You must say nothing and contact an attorney.”
“The more you talk, the worse off you are. It doesn’t matter if you use that fake ID just to get a job, you can end up wearing an ankle monitor and waiting for the day they deport you,” the leaflet says.