Was Last Night's DUI Checkpoint at W. 150th and Lorain Used to Target Undocumented Immigrants?


  • @Wienerdawgy | Twitter
Social media was a flurry last night after a spontaneous Tuesday night checkpoint at West 150th and Lorain appeared with reports of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) trucks spotted in the nearby K-Mart parking lot.

While DUIBlock.com confirmed the spot as a sobriety checkpoint, many Clevelanders spent hours on Facebook and Twitter arguing about whether or not a DUI checkpoint could be used to target undocumented immigrants.

ICE, meanwhile, said the rumors were false.

"These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger," a spokesperson for ICE said.

Reports across the New England states have flooded in regarding immigration/citizenship checkpoints along highway roads, indicating that the Trump administration's zero tolerance crackdown on undocumented immigrants is not isolated along the Mexico border.

Ohio has become ground zero for ICE workplace raids, so the thought of an immigration checkpoint moonlighting as a cause for sober public safety is not out of the question.
The red indicates where ICE has jurisdiction to detain. - COURTESY OF THE ACLU
  • Courtesy of the ACLU
  • The red indicates where ICE has jurisdiction to detain.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches. However, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders. For example, at border crossings (also called "ports of entry"), federal authorities do not need a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing to justify conducting what courts have called a "routine search," such as searching luggage or a vehicle.

While Cleveland is not close enough to a border to be considered a "port of entry," we are within the 100-mile border zone. Meaning, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints. Luckily, Border Patrol cannot pull anyone over without "reasonable suspicion" of an immigration violation or crime nor can they search vehicles in the 100-mile zone without a warrant or "probable cause" (a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances, that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred).

Unfortunately, according to the ACLU, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people.

Nearly two thirds of the American population live within the 100-mile border zone, areas that have been nicknamed "Constitution Free Zones" in reference to how frequently people feel their constitutional rights have been violated.

But what about DUI checkpoints?

While a sobriety checkpoint is not explicitly a trap for undocumented immigrants, it might as well be.

The most common crime committed by undocumented immigrants is driving without a license. As they are undocumented, it's extremely difficult for them to obtain a driver's license, which explains the influx of Washington state and New Mexico licenses, as they are the only two states in the nation that do not require proof of residency or a social security number to apply for a license.

If an undocumented immigrant is stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, their license will be run through the system. If they do not have a license, police will arrest them and take them into a county or local jail.

Once booked, ICE has a program called Secure Communities that runs the fingerprints of anyone booked into any county or local jail in the country through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI database to determine if they are in the country illegally or not.

If it is discovered that the suspect is an illegal alien, ICE will put a hold on them and generally pursue a deportation order.

So, yes, while last night's checkpoint was a sobriety checkpoint, it very well could have been used to identify and target undocumented immigrants and the local police would have been well within their jurisdiction to do so.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.