Motorists worried about about getting pulled over because of a burned-out brake light — particularly now that the “sanctuary cities” law is in effect — can get some help Saturday.
A free clinic will be at the Como Community Center, where anyone interested can get their brake lights checked (and bulbs replaced for free) and find out about their rights as a U.S. citizen or undocumented immigrant.
“It is really costly to interact with the police one way or another in traffic stops,” said Lizzie Maldonado, a member of the organizing committee for the Democratic Socialists of America Fort Worth, which is sponsoring the event. “That doesn’t even include the dangers of undocumented residents pulled over.”
Maldonado said the clinic is needed now, more than ever, since much of the controversial law known as SB 4 has gone into effect in Texas.
Portions of the law, which lets police inquire about a person’s immigration status during traffic stops and requires top law enforcers to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for deportation, have gone into effect while other parts are still under appeal.
“We want to help our community reduce their interactions with the police as much as possible ... so they can reduce a lot of the risks,” Maldonado said.
She and others will be on hand at the clinic, which is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the community center, 4900 Horne St. in Fort Worth.
“With the passage of SB 4 and the costly and potentially high-stakes nature of traffic stops, stay safe and hassle-free over the holidays with a free brake light change by trained community volunteers,” the flier states.
“I think that’s a great community outreach strategy,” said Fort Worth police officer Daniel Segura, who made a viral video earlier this year trying to calm fears about people’s immigration status.
Segura said he hopes to reach out to the group to see if it’s possible for him to attend to hand out SB4 informational pamphlets.
“If you are a victim of crime, we don’t care about your immigration status — you have the same rights as anyone else who lives in Fort Worth,” he said in Spanish on the video, which drew 1.7 million views earlier this year. “We are going to defend you. We are going to protect you.”
Anxiety and fear
Many said they feared, after the law went into effect, that law enforcers could lose trust from some in the minority community.
“This event highlights the anxiety and fear among many in the minority community, especially the Latino community, concerning SB 4,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Several communities are in survival mode as to what they perceive as the most potentially damaging part of SB 4, which is that they will get detained and possibly arrested for suspicion of being in the country illegally or knowing someone who is.
“If law enforcement loses the support of the community, crimes may go unreported and potentially unsolved.”
The host of Saturday’s clinic, DSA, describes itself as the “largest socialist organization in the United States.” Organizers say the activist group has dramatically increased in size after many learned about the group from former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, said he’s not familiar with the group.
But he said “if there are groups out there helping those that can’t help themselves — who have brake lights out or other issues with a vehicle that might prompt an officer to pull them over ... then those people should be commended.”
Maldonado said she doesn’t know how many people may show up Saturday.
But she emphasized that “we are not anti-police.”
“We are not trying to increase any tension between people and the police,” she said. “We just know the imbalance of authority between people and the police is a problem.”