August 22, 2008

Hispanics accuse Pasadena police of harassment

ACORN alleges police trying to enforce federal immigration laws

11:21 AM CDT on Friday, August 22, 2008 staff report

PASADENA, Texas -- Members of the community group ACORN marched on the Pasadena police station on Thursday to complain about what they consider police harassment of Hispanics.

The group had hoped to meet with acting Pasadena Police Chief Michael Jackson, but instead had to deliver a list of questions they sought to be answered.

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now member Jose Valdez accused the police department of pulling over people “because their skin is brown.” He alleged that, in addition to asking for the drivers’ licenses and proof of insurance, officers were seeking out the drivers’ Social Security numbers. He said the methods were a tactic to enforce federal immigration laws.

Valdez complained about Mayor Johnny Isbell’s recent order to crack down on drivers who do not have state-mandated liability insurance.

Earlier this year, Isbell pushed through a zero-tolerance policy in Pasadena for drivers who are found not to have liability insurance.

The policy leads to an almost automatic impounding of the driver’s car and, in some cases, an arrest.

“Why is Mayor Isbell been enforcing the insurance laws that are in affect for Texas and the fact that they have been targeting Hispanics and they don’t stop as many whites or any other people with a tone of skin other brown,” said Valdez. “It’s costing us money to be able to get our cars back, to be able to get people out of jail for having to pay bail bonds to get them out.”

ACORN was also seeking to have the Pasadena Police Department accept Mexican consulate identification cards as proper identification.

Police department spokesman Vance Mitchell said while the chief was unable to meet with the group, he would answer the questions listed on the two-page letter from ACORN.

Mitchell said he was unaware of any complaints that Pasadena police had been targeting Hispanics or engaging in harassment of people because of their skin color or race.

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Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?