Latinos in Immokalee still weary of checkpoints
IMMOKALEE, Fla. - Safety checkpoints by the Collier County Sheriff's Department continues to draw suspicion from Hispanics in the Immokalee community.
Many of them believe that the only reason that the checkpoints are in place is to track those who are undocumented, an accusation that the sheriff's department denies.
"In Immokalee a lot of families feel alarmed and a lot of them feel terrorized because they're not sure if their family members will be coming home that day," said Adan Iabra, an advocate for farm workers in the area.
Iabra says he has heard a number of stories of people being targeted and detained during checkpoints in the area.
The sheriff's department confirms that of the 18 safety checkpoints throughout the county since 20-10, half of them have been in the Immokalee area.
Fox 4 took those concerns to Lt. Drew Lee, commander of the Collier County Sheriff's Department substation in Immokalee.
"Historically we have seen a problem with traffic in Immokalee," said Lee. He insists they only focus about safety and illegal activity -- and not about preying on anyone's immigration status. "Obviously if there is a violation of law we're going to take action regardless of who the person is."
Fear and terror are the words some used to describe their feelings about the checkpoints.
"If you are undocumented...you're driving without a license this is a mechanism that will send you to detention," said Gray Torrico.
In the last two and a half years, 16 people stopped at checkpoints were detained by the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
"Just like the sheriff's department wants to build trust and safety that's what we want to do."
But that could be a long and complicated road.
It appears the air of mistrust that many in the Latino community in Immokalee have against the sheriff's department will likely continue for the time being.