Delfino Aldama was fixing a customer’s brakes this month when his smartphone chimed with a text message that tipped him to a police checkpoint more than an hour before officers began stopping motorists. The self-employed auto mechanic frantically called friends with the location and drove an alternate route home.

The Mexico native had reason to be alarmed: He does not have a driver’s license because he is in the United States illegally, and it would cost about $1,400 to get his Nissan Frontier pickup back from the towing company. He has breathed a little easier since he began getting blast text messages two years ago from activists who scour streets to find checkpoints as they are being set up.

The cat-and-mouse game ends Jan. 1 when a new law takes effect in California to prohibit police from impounding cars at sobriety checkpoints if a motorist’s only offense is being an unlicensed driver. Thousands of cars are towed each year in the state under those circumstances, hitting pocketbooks of illegal immigrants especially hard.

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