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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMarch 7, 2008 Issue 

Video aims to assist police-immigrant relations

Catholic Charities official helps produce police training video


By Sam Lucero
Compass staff

Immigrants may be eligible for 'U Visa'

GREEN BAY - Laurie Martinez, immigration counselor with Catholic Charities of Green Bay, said that immigrants who are victims of certain crimes can now apply for a "U Visa."

They must meet eligibility requirements which require that:

• they suffered abuse due to being a victim of a crime,

• they have information regarding the crime,

• they have been helpful or likely to be helpful with the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

In addition, the crime needs to have taken place within the United States.

"Since many immigrants fear any contact with police officers, they have been reluctant to come forward and cooperate," she said. "Now more immigrants may be encouraged to report crimes to their local police departments and assist with investigations."

For more information, contact Laurie Martinez at (920) 272-8234; [email protected].

GREEN BAY -- Law enforcement officials in Manitowoc County are taking steps to improve relationships with immigrants in their community. A first step is to understand why some immigrants avoid contact with police, even during investigations.

With the assistance of Laurie Martinez, an immigration counselor with Catholic Charities of Green Bay, a training video was recently produced. The video, titled "A Reason for Silence," will be used in training sessions to help law enforcement better understand why immigrants shy away from contact.

"Initially, the police departments expressed their frustration with the lack of cooperation from some immigrants during investigations," said Martinez. "They decided to make an educational video for their departments as a way to provide some insight to law enforcement officials on why there might be a lack of cooperation and how the issue might be addressed in their dealings with the ethnic community."

Joe Collins, chief of the Two Rivers Police Department, spearheaded the project. The eight-minute video includes a discussion between Collins and Martinez about the hesitancy of immigrants to report crimes, and a dramatization of one immigrant's 911 call to police. It was produced, at no cost, by Ronald Haese of Lakeshore Technical College.

From her experience working with immigrants, Martinez said the video addresses a real-life issue.

"Many immigrants come from countries with corrupt police departments that they cannot trust," she explained. "They would never approach a police officer for help. Newer immigrants are unaware that law enforcement is quite different here. Immigrants need to learn to trust their local police department and not be afraid to ask for help or to give needed information regarding an investigation."

Martinez added that news accounts on television and newspapers - about undocumented immigrants being deported, leaving their families behind - also create a climate of fear.

"Some local law enforcement agencies in the country are assisting federal agents with immigration enforcement and that increases fear of local authorities," she said. "Many immigrants tend to focus on the horror stories they hear."

Collins, a member of the Manitowoc County Law Enforcement Diversity Council, said he felt it was important to have law enforcement officers understand issues that affect the minority community.

"Most law enforcement officers in our area are from the Midwest and have had little to no contact with members from other minority groups," said Collins. "This lack of contact can lead to lack of understanding and misunderstandings as it relates to cultural issues and how members from other cultures view law enforcement."

Collins said that people of Hispanic and Hmong ancestry make up a majority of Manitowoc County's immigrant population.

"This population is going to continue growing in the years to come," he noted. "This makes it even more important to discuss these issues and to be pro-active, creating relationships and preventing misunderstandings before they happen."

The video project is one example of how law enforcement can reach out to community members, Martinez said.

"The police departments in the Manitowoc and Two Rivers area are trying to gain the confidence of the immigrant community," she said. "They not only asked the question about why the immigrant community is reluctant to cooperate, but they also have asked what they can do to gain the confidence of the newcomers."

Collins would like to see the video mass produced and circulated to law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

"The idea was to keep the video short so it could be used during shift briefings and the beginning of the officers' tour of duty," he explained. "The video would leave the audience with several discussion questions to facilitate learning within the officers' community. We hope this will spur the officers to find resources within their areas that can help them become better connected to minority members of their communities."

The police chief hopes to produce a second video addressing immigration issues. However, a funding source will be needed to cover the cost.

"In the next video, we are hoping to discuss many of the different definitions associated with the levels of citizenship and documentation," he said. "I hope to show how the entire process works, how long someone has to wait, and how much it may cost someone to become a citizen."


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