Berkeley Agrees Not to Impound Unlicensed Drivers’ Vehicles

Nov 12th, 2010 | By | Category: National News

The police chief and city manager of Berkeley, Calif., announced a new policy that will no longer allow the vehicles of illegal immigrants or anyone else driving without a license to be impounded for 30 days when stopped for minor violations, according to a news report.

In a memo announcing the change to city staff, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said the policy will prevent those who cannot get a license, in many cases due to immigration status, from losing their vehicle. Police Chief Michael Meehan agreed to the change last month after reviewing a similar policy in San Francisco and is now training officers on the new policy. He said the policy applies equally to all drivers, the report states.

Those who are caught driving without a license will still get a ticket and have their car towed, but they will no longer lose their car for a month and have to pay a tow yard up to $2,500 for storage fees. However, once the car is towed, only a licensed driver will be allowed to claim it from the impound yard, according to the report.

Meehan has also pledged to train his officers and employees to be more sensitive to the needs of illegal immigrants who need to drive but technically cannot, the report states.

The Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action group lobbied the city for two years on the issue, and was a driving force behind the policy passing. The executive director of the group said the failure of the federal government to address immigration reform has cities like Berkeley doing it themselves, the report states.

However, an Orinda group called Alliance for a Sustainable USA, said the new policy is a bad idea, according to the news report. They say the policy indirectly encourages illegal immigration.