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Officials to meet with Brazilians again Friday, October 26, 2007
Liz Mineo 508-626-3825 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Police will hold a series of meetings to answer the concerns of local Brazilians that were raised four months ago during talks between government leaders and the Brazilian community.

The June 18 meeting was set up by town officials, police, Brazilian community leaders and the U.S. Department of Justice to help bridge the gap between the Brazilian community and police.

More than 400 people crammed the Memorial Building that evening to voice their concerns that covered everything from immigration, legalization, driver's licenses, health, employment, administration of justice and education.

The new meetings will be held through November at the Framingham Police Station.  Attendance would be by invitation only, said police spokesman Lt. Paul Shastany.  Among those invited are members of the Framingham Brazilian Community-Wide Dialogue Planning committee, town officials, the Consul General of Brazil in Boston, and Brazilian merchants, clergy and civic leaders.  Nearly 40 people will be invited.

Police hope the meetings would help craft a closer relationship with the Brazilian community and encourage them to report crimes to authorities.  Many Brazilian illegal immigrants are afraid to call the police for fear of being deported, said Shastany.

"We're not empowered to enforce immigration laws yet many people don't call the police because they're afraid we're going to deport them," he said.

The first meeting on Nov. 8 will include a guest speaker from Immigration and Customs Enforcement who will explain immigration law enforcement.  The Nov. 15 meeting will touch on criminal law, domestic violence and what the police do.  On Nov. 21, the topic will be driver's licenses, housing regulations and overcrowding.  The final forum, Nov. 29, will be about civic involvement, volunteering opportunities and voter registration.

The meetings were long awaited by the Brazilian community, said Brazilian civic leader Vera Dias-Freitas.  Over the past four months, many of those who took part in the first meeting kept asking her when there was going to be a response to all the concerns that were raised.

"People are skeptical," said Dias-Freitas, who was part of the planning committee.  "It took so long to have a response.  There is a lot of frustration within the Brazilian community, but they're still hopeful something will be done."

Dias-Freitas said it's up to the local government to work to bridge the gap with the Brazilian community.

"The government is not doing enough to keep that trust," she said.  "People come out of the shadows to attend the (meeting). What more trust can you ask for?"

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