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Arrested for an expired sticker and facing deportation
Police targeted Massachusetts activist

By Rachel Wilsey | September 15, 2006 | Page 11

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.--In a clear case of racial profiling, immigrant rights activist Olga Gonzales was stopped on September 5 for an expired inspection sticker on her car by an police officer on a bike.

When asked for her driver's license, she gave her passport and her international driver's license, as she does not have a Massachusetts state license. Instead of being ticketed for the out-of-date inspection sticker, or having the car impounded for driving without a license, Olga was arrested and taken to the police station where the officer fingerprinted her to check for her immigration status.

When it came back that she did not have legal status, he called the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Olga, a Springfield community organizer who has been involved in the struggle for immigrant rights, now faces deportation.

Olga's arrest and possible deportation has been met by outrage from many in the local community, but it also adds to a climate of fear that surrounds everyday life for undocumented workers in the Pioneer Valley.

Recently, two other immigrants disappeared while driving through Forest Park, and police seized 13 cars of farm workers in Springfield for having out-of-state plates. This campaign of intimidation and harassment by local police cannot continue.

Local activists are pushing the Northampton city council to defend the human rights and civil liberties that are now under siege--to guarantee these civil liberties to all regardless of citizenship status, racial identification or country of origin. Activists are calling for Northampton to adopt a sanctuary city resolution that would forbid all city employees and law enforcement officers from enquiring into a person's immigration status and from enforcing federal immigration laws.

These struggles for sanctuary city laws are extremely important right now, given that the Department of Homeland Security is currently testing a new program in Boston in which fingerprint checks by local or state police will be automatically cross-referenced in the ICE database to alert immigration officials of immigration violations.

Ultimately, this could lead to a situation nationally where local police could submit these kinds of requests routinely during traffic stops or any other patrols simply to determine if someone was in the U.S. legally.

Contact Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins at 413-587-1249 or [email protected] and Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz at 413-587-1100 or [email protected] to express your outrage over local police being used for immigration enforcement, and to support the adoption of a sanctuary city resolution.

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