The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) announced today that it is beginning an investigation of traffic checkpoints being conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU-NCLF investigation will focus on claims that Latinos were racially profiled during the execution of the checkpoints, one of which recently resulted in the detention of 15 undocumented immigrants.

“Based on several reports, we have concerns that these traffic checkpoints are being used as a pretense for checking drivers’ immigration status,” said Raul Pinto, Racial Justice Attorney for the ACLU-NCLF. “Federal courts have ruled that officers can set up traffic checkpoints for very limited purposes only, so we question why federal immigration authorities are needed to conduct routine seat belt checks in Jackson County. We are interested in hearing from any drivers who have gone through a checkpoint in Jackson County and we urge them to contact our office.”

The Asheville Citizen-Times recently reported that a seat belt checkpoint in Tuckasegee resulted in the May 16 arrest of 15 undocumented immigrants. An ACLU-NCLF investigation of police checkpoints in Winston-Salem last year led the Winston-Salem Police Department to change its policies for executing checkpoints.