Adding Impound to Injury

Santa Barbara enjoys the status of being one of the most beautiful cities in the state. As such, it relies heavily on its tourist industry. This means that many members of our community work as waiters, gardeners, carpenters, and housekeepers.

Unfortunately, for many who must be at work by 4:00 in the morning, or who work in the foothills of Santa Barbara and Montecito, public transportation is not accessible or not a viable option.

Many of our friends who work in these industries have tried to comply with the law to the best of their ability by insuring their cars and registering them with the DMV, but are essentially handicapped by the inability to obtain a drivers license under California law. Unfortunately, when these individuals are stopped and their cars impounded for a mandatory 30-day period, they lose thousands of dollars in towing fees, as well as the means by which to carry out their livelihoods. [“Impound Policy Gets Second Look,” 9/2/10.]

As someone who cares about our community, I believe it is smart policy to allow the 20-minute grace period, giving people a chance to get a licensed driver to drive the car away, before impounding. Supporting this proposal will encourage drivers to avail themselves of car registration and insurance.—Aidin Castillo, S.B. and UC Davis

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I am writing in response to the story on car impoundments. I am an immigrant and do not have a California driver’s license. My wife and two children are US citizens. We own our home, pay taxes, and do not take anything from the government. I have a Mexican and Oregon driver’s license and car insurance. The reason I have to drive is to support my family and in doing so I have never gotten a ticket or been stopped by the police. I do not think that I or other people in my position should live in fear of losing our cars and therefore our employment. My family and the economy would suffer as I would have to foreclose my home and rely on government assistance. We are not a threat, we are your neighbors, the parents at your kids’ birthday parties, and members of your PTA. I also pay social security, unemployment and disability insurances, benefits that I will never receive, like millions of others in my situation. As a community, we need to act locally to protect immigrants and their families form abuses like car confiscations or Secure Communities, but at the same time, we need to continue working together to demand the federal government to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.—Santiago Romero, S.B.

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I greatly appreciated the attention brought on car impoundment policy, its negative impact on undocumented persons and how the police department is responding. It is obvious that the federal government’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform has pushed counties, like Santa Barbara, to take the matter into their own hands. It is a multifaceted issue that is affecting the entire community of Santa Barbara, threatening public safety and creating a lucrative business for the private towing companies all in our backyard.

There is an omnipresence of fear in the Latino community and it is apparent that the fear is coupled with the consequence of people less likely to report crimes such as domestic violence. People are scared and need to see the police as an ally not as the enemy. In addition, the confiscation of cars is economically punishing the very people who stand as the backbone of the U.S. economy, taking low-wage jobs and doing the unglamorous work many are unwilling to take. It is a reality that the Santa Barbara public transportation is not the most efficient, thus driving is a necessity. The bottom line here is that the impound policy is unjust and the question of human rights come into play.

Cam Sanchez needs to seriously examine and draw influence from the measures taken in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Richmond and Huntington Park where alternatives to car impoundment have been taken. The allowance of a twenty-minute grace period with a citation offers a primary step in the right direction. Small victories must be made and are critical as we work to make systematic policy change.—Kyle Tana, UCSB student


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