I am concerned about the practice of police impoundment of the vehicles of unlicensed drivers, many of them undocumented Latino workers.

Fear, like a plague, spreads rapidly. Societal fear often leads to discriminatory attitudes against some “other”—e.g., those of a particular race or culture. Discriminatory lawmaking and law enforcement often follow. I fear that police impoundment of the cars of undocumented workers is contributing to a climate of fear and distrust in Santa Barbara.

It disturbs me that laws are being promulgated—and are seen by many as enforced—in ways that create fears of targeting of licensed Latino citizens as well as undocumented Latino workers: fears of losing the livelihood needed to support their families, of being labeled as criminals even though they aren’t, and of being deported.

Compassion is a compelling biblical value. It requires that we do our best to honor—to “feel with and for”—the “other.” Civic authorities who act with compassion will not make—or enforce—laws in ways that can be even perceived as discriminatory. Police, when at all possible, should exercise what discretion they have not to impound peoples’ cars unless absolutely necessary. How many poor families can possibly pay a fee of upwards of $2000 to reclaim their car? How many can go to work without a car?

For Santa Barbara I seek a society that encourages compassion and trust—not fear, anger, and distrust. I presume that elected and appointed city officials share this goal. I pledge to do whatever I can to help find ways to create such a society. I am convinced that many other Santa Barbarans will want to do likewise.


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