Saturday, July 20, 2019

Activists Call on Officials in Maryland to Bar Police from Questioning Immigration Status

A surge in violence against Latinos in Baltimore, Maryland, prompted Latino activists, clergy and civil rights leaders Tuesday to call on city officials to implement a written policy barring police from asking the immigration status of those who call for help.

A crowd of about three dozen Latino and black community members gathered at a news conference at Patterson Park to hear city officials speak on the matter.  Although the wave of violence has already claimed the lives of three men, attacks continue to go unreported out of fear of deportation.  The group says the policy would reduce crime and help bridge the gap between police and immigrants.

“This policy has to be clear, written, and communicated, so that the violence will end and the real crime statistics in this city will be revealed,” Rev. Robert Wojtek, pastor of a Southeast Baltimore Catholic parish, said.

The most recent victim of the violence was Honduran Martin Reyes.  He was fatally clubbed and beaten with a wooden stake early Saturday morning in Southeast Baltimore.  Reyes’ nephew, Juan de Dios Hernandez, also fell victim to the violence last month when he was fatally shot.  In total, five attacks have been reported during the summer and all the victims were natives of Honduras.

Baltimore Police Chief Frederick H. Bealefeld responded that a written policy was unnecessary in Baltimore because officers do not ask about immigration status.  Instead city officials reassured residents to trust police to focus on fighting violent crime, not enforcing immigration laws.

“I’ve been here for three years in this role, and you haven’t heard one utterance on enforcement of immigration laws,” Bealefeld said.

A Latino advocacy group, CASA of Maryland, pointed to other jurisdictions in the country that have already enacted policies that prevent police from asking whether people are in this country legally.  They include Albuquerque, N.M. and New Haven , Conn.

In Pittsburgh, the police chief recently declared that officers would no longer check immigration papers, according to news reports.  State employees in Maine are prohibited by law from requesting immigration information from people seeking services since 2004.

Baltimore Sun