03/31/2014 04:57 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

Latino Obamacare Workers Arrested, Claim They Were Racially Profiled

Grassroots Collaborative/Facebook

Two young men going door-to-door to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act's Monday deadline on Chicago's West Side were arrested last week in an incident their employer described as "racist profiling."

The two men -- Felipe Hernandez, 20, and Kevin Tapia, 19 -- were arrested in the city's Garfield Ridge neighborhood last Tuesday after a resident called 911 to complain about what they reportedly suspected was a scam targeting the elderly, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two men were detained for several hours and charged with soliciting unlawful business, a misdemeanor, because police say officers were not aware at the time that the two were working with the Grassroots Collaborative community group. A police spokesman told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday they expect a judge will dismiss the men's case.

“I never would have thought informing people about Obamacare would get me in handcuffs," Hernandez said at a Sunday news conference, according to the Sun-Times.

In reaction to the arrests, Grassroots Collaborative executive director Amisha Patel called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to apologize and "institute anti-racist training for all Chicago Police officers" in a statement.

"We will continue to outreach to Chicago residents and we will continue to stand against policies and police tactics that attempt to criminalize youth, criminalize people of color, and criminalize community organizing," she added.

According to the statement, Grassroots Collaborative had received funding to conduct outreach for the Affordable Care Act to low-income Chicagoans.

Patel's group also launched an online petition calling for the charges to be dropped and that the racial profiling incident be investigated.

A CPD spokesman denied to the Tribune that the men were targeted because of their race.

The two are expected to appear in court on May 16.



Health Care Reform Efforts Throughout History