ASHTABULA, OH- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) post in Ashtabula County warning them that targeting people based on their race is illegal and should not be tolerated. The ACLU of Ohio has received numerous reports recently of Latinos who reside, work or travel through Ashtabula County being stopped, searched and detained without due cause.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso said, “Law enforcement cannot pull someone over for simply being of a certain race or ethnicity. In most of these cases, those who were stopped, searched and detained were not charged with any traffic violation. ”

Reports indicate that the OSHP have also called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detained legal residents even if they produce proper documentation showing they are lawfully in the United States.

“This is a transparent attempt by the OSHP to check the immigration status of Latinos in the area under the guise of investigating possible traffic violations. The highway patrol is unauthorized, untrained and unequipped to enforce federal immigration laws. They are flagrantly violating the rights of innocent people by detaining lawful immigrants and targeting anyone who appears to be of Hispanic origin,” added Gamso

Local residents have expressed concern with OSHP on numerous occasions over the practice of targeting Latino motorists. However, the practice has continued unfettered during the past several weeks with more residents being pulled over without cause and detained whether they could provide documentation or not.

"By unfairly targeting Latinos in Ashtabula County, the highway patrol has sent a clear message that all Hispanics are guilty until proven innocent and will be subject to illegal and unethical harassment. The OSHP must take immediate action to stop racial profiling and treat all residents equally," Gamso concluded.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU of Ohio is based in Cleveland with community and campus groups throughout the state.  There are 30,000 ACLU members and supporters in Ohio and more than 500,000 nationwide.