7/7 – WABE(VIDEO & AUDIO) – Latinos in South Georgia feel targeted by local law enforcement 2011-07-06

WABE: Latinos in South Georgia feel targeted by local law enforcement 2011-07-06.

Latinos in South Georgia feel targeted by local law enforcement

(2011-07-06)

(WABE)South Georgia resident Maria Patricio talks about the history of Douglas and its Latino community.

The state attorney general’s office filed a notice of appeal to a recent federal judge’s ruling that put parts of the state’s controversial illegal immigration law on hold.

WABE News spent some time in South Georgia, and many Latinos feel like they’re unfairly targeted by local law enforcement.

El Potrero is a Mexican club off of a main road in Alma, GA. That’s about two hours, southeast of Macon.

Tonight, about 500 people are crowded inside to dance to a popular Mexican band.

Maria Patricio is one of the club owners, and she says there are not that many cars squeezed into the parking lot.

“I would say there are about 150. Well, guess what? They come in groups in one car. So if a young lady has a driver’s license, she brings 5 or 6 of their friends in that one car. So if they stop them, they can’t do anything.”

Most of the Mexican immigrants who talked to WABE say they feel like they’re unfairly targeted by local law enforcement.

Patricio says that her brother-in law was stopped by cops for his windshield wiper not working, and she says, it wasn’t even raining.

Patricio also says a Coffee County Sheriff’s car has been stationed outside of Douglas trailer park, home to many Latinos.

“There’s two ways to come in the trailer park. Well the cop stops, I would say about half a block. Everytime a car comes out, guess what, they follow him. That’s profiling.”

The Coffee County Sheriff’s office says they don’t racially profile, but that the trailer park has been the site of some drug trafficking arrests.

Scott Harper a major with the sheriff’s department doesn’t know about any of their cars stationed outside of that mobile park.

“We’re not targeting Hispanics, we’re not targeting blacks, we’re not targeting whites, or Chinese people or anybody. What we target is criminals.”

Harper says officers in his department have been told to not sit in areas to just watch people.

And they’re not looking, Harper says, to make some easy tickets off of the Latino community.

“As a law enforcement officer, if you’re wanting to get stashed, you can say, ‘Hey, there’s some easy tickets for me. Because, I know, probably if I pull these guys over, they’re not going to have a driver’s license. But that’s not the way we operate, we’re not going to do that.”

But Harper does say that if they do stop someone for running a red light.

And they don’t have a license, and they’re in the country illegally.

His department does take the next step and call federal authorities.

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