Driving While Latino

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image by Matt Rota

The post-9/11 crackdown on undocumented immigrants has spurred a new brand of racial profiling. In March, investigative journalists at the Chicago Reporter analyzed traffic stops in the six-county Chicago area, finding that Latino drivers in many towns “are being stopped at a higher rate by the police than their share of the driving-age population, and they are more likely to have their cars searched than their white counterparts.” As a direct result of increased cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, what ought to be routine traffic stops–for speeding or driving without a seat belt–can spiral into lengthy detentions and deportations. 

 Immigrants are “the nation’s fastest growing sector of the U.S. [federal] prison population,” reports the economic justice magazine Dollars & Sense (Jan.-Feb. 2009). “State and local governments are vying with each other to attract new immigrant prisons as the foundation of their rural ‘economic development’ plans.”

This “immigrant-crackdown economy” means boom times for private prison companies contracted by the government to house detainees while they wait for court dates and hearings. CorpWatch (March 1, 2009) reports that private prison firms like the GEO Group Inc. are showing “impressive” earnings in 2009, amid plans to add thousands more beds specifically for detained immigrants.

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