GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) – Latino immigrants have embraced new Spanish-language mobile technologies that track police roadblocks in an effort to limit interaction with law enforcement.
"They have messages in English and in Spanish," Alejandro Ramirez, a local activist, said of one popular tool. "This will allow them to know exactly when and where the checkpoints are taking place."
Crowdsourced mobile applications and cellphone call lists are becoming more common, and evidence shows they have been in use in Hall County.
One app, for example, allows users to place pins on a Google map at the site of a known checkpoint. The exact address and time can be added, and users can look up the information by selecting the city they are traveling in.
This app, paselavoz.net, which is loosely translated as "spread the word," was used recently to spotlight a roadblock on Queen City Parkway in Gainesville after a suspect was shot and killed in a confrontation after authorities say he tried to drown a Georgia State Patrol trooper on June 25.
The deadly incident occurred after two Latino suspects fled a separate checkpoint on Ga. 53.
"As long as we have local law enforcement partnering with deportation efforts, immigrants will find ways to protect themselves and their families from the risk of deportation," said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
In March of 2015, Hall County resident Eligio Rodriguez was deported after coming to the attention of ICE officials following multiple charges of driving without a license.
His two teenage boys are now living here without their mother or father, and that example has resonated with local Latinos, even those here legally.
Gainesville criminal defense attorney Arturo Corso said these new technologies are being used to counter programs aimed at detaining some immigrants.
According to the Hall County Sheriff's Office, when it arrests an individual who was not born in the United States, the inmate's immigration status is checked.
If found to be in the country illegally, the Sheriff's Office then notifies ICE and a determination is made about whether to place a detainer on that person based on immigration enforcement priorities.
ICE prioritizes deportations based on perceived threats to national security and public safety.
Once the inmates conclude their cases in Hall County, either by making bond or adjudication, they are taken to an ICE intake center in Atlanta.
The Hall County Sheriff's Office is an authorized ICE detention facility through the Department of Homeland Security, and officials said they are allowed to house ICE detainees for up to 72 hours.
"In light of recent events, you can certainly understand the value in wanting to avoid police," Corso said.
Gainesville police spokesman Kevin Holbrook, however, said officers do not target immigrants, legal or otherwise, in checkpoints.
The department is aware that such technologies exist, but Holbrook said that roadblocks are typically publicized ahead of time and are focused on high-crime, high-crash areas.
"It does not necessarily hinder our jobs or the way we work," he added. "We tend to be an agency that is as transparent as can be."