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Policing and Immigration: Identifying Police Practices that Protect Immigrant Communities

We didn't have to travel a long way to make it to our first event for Thursday, August 10th, because it took place at the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which was located just a few blocks away from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" on Chester Avenue. The program offered by the ACLU on this day was entitled "Policing and Immigration: Identifying Police Practices that Protect Immigrant Communities" and featured Ms. Katrice Williams, ACLU Policy Associate, interviewing Lorain's police chief, Mr. Cel Rivera and Ms. Anabel Barron, a social worker at "El Centro" and very active member of LOIRA which is HOLA's Lorain County chapter.

From Ms. Barron we learned what it was like being brought to the United States at an early age by her  undocumented family, in order that they might find work here, and having to constantly live in the shadows. Her testimony was particularly effective as she described how she had to teach her own children to duck when they were out driving and saw a law enforcement officer; despite the fact that her own children were born here and are U.S. citizens they grew up very frightened of the police because they were afraid what would happen to their mother and to their family if it was found out that she was undocumented. 

Eventually Ms. Barron was apprehended for a vehicular violation but, thankfully, this occurred during the Obama administration so she was allowed to remain in the U.S. providing she check in with the authorities periodically. But, in the first part of 2017 when she checked in, the Trump administration was in power and she had to wear a monitoring device for a few months. Fortunately, with the help of LOIRA and other friends, Ms. Barron she was ultimately granted permission to remain in the United States and no longer had to wear the monitoring device.

After hearing all of this we could understand what she meant when she said, "my life is a roller coaster of emotions."

Chief Rivera spoke of his own family history being the son of a man who had immigrated to Lorain from Puerto Rico to work in the steel plant. Chief Rivera himself has been the Chief of Police of Lorain for the last 24 years and has served the community as a police officer for 47 years total. 

It was a meeting with LOIRA at Sacred Heart Chapel in 2013 that raised his awareness to the fact that the Lorain Police Department never had a firm policy regarding dealing with the undocumented so in November, 2013 after careful consultation with his own police officers and other law enforcement agencies one was adopted that read in part: 

"...The Lorain Police Department is dedicated to the safety and welfare of all individuals found within the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Lorain. Thus, detection of criminal behavior is of primary interest and concern in dealing with any subject suspected of violating the law. Race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, occupation, immigration status or any arbitrary characteristic pertaining to any specific individual have no bearing on any decision for a Lorain Police Officer to effectuate a stop or detention of an individual or make an arrest." 

Chief Rivera initiated this policy because he believes in the dignity of all humans and contends that it is now time for local law enforcement agencies to "stand tall" because this is a matter that effects everyone. For instance, how would a U.S. citizen like it if someone harmed her/him or a family member and the witnesses were afraid to come forward because they were undocumented? 

To be sure, Ms. Williams, Chief Rivera, and Ms. Barron spent some time reviewing the complicated subjects of when local authorities are required to cooperate with ICE and the expected court challenges to the Trump administration's policies regarding the cutting of funding to sanctuary cities. Of course, there is more to Lorain's "Immigration Enforcement" policy; it does have provisions for one's immigration status to be considered if serious crimes are involved. 

As for ourselves, we were quite pleased to see so many attend this ACLU program at noontime during a workday. One person that we talked to was Mr. Lawrence Wilson, an activist who came to Cleveland from Columbus to attend this program because he has been concerned about this issue for a long time. He commented that it is often the case that people will volunteer to help him but drop out after they see what a difficult endeavor that it is. 

We ourselves have been active in political activities for a long time ourselves and could really relate to what Mr. Wilson was telling us. "It is a lonely job at times," he said but, thankfully, he and other dedicated people like him have no intention of giving up.  



Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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