Both sides praise police forum

Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Both sides praise police forum Thursday, November 15, 2007
Liz Mineo 508-626-3825 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Local Brazilian community leaders met face to face with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials last week in a meeting that was hailed as positive by both sides.

The first of four such events was sponsored by the Framingham Police Department so it could answer questions raised by local Brazilians during a meeting this summer.  Brazilians said their most common grievances were issues related to immigration.

Boston ICE official were guest speakers at the Nov. 8 meeting.  They explained how the agency works and why it doesn't conduct random sweeps targeting illegal immigrants or Brazilians.

Many in the audience welcomed the news.

"The biggest concern among Brazilians is, `Are they going to come and grab me on the streets?"' said Pablo Maia, a businessman appointed to the Community Development Block Grant this summer.  "They told us they don't do random operations or come to the businesses to arrest people who are here illegally.  They come for you if you run into trouble with the law or if you're on a wanted list."

Some on hand said they felt they had a better understanding of what ICE does, and the information can help dispel rumors that have spread throughout the Brazilian community.  Brazilian merchants have long complained that rumors of immigration raids scare customers away and slow business.

"Rumors spread fear," said Fernando Castro, who owns a tax preparation business downtown.

Ilton Lisboa, a Brazilian man who works in Marlborough, said the meeting helped him see ICE in a different light.

"ICE is not the enemy," said Lisboa.  "They want to help the immigrant community by going after the criminals to deport them and make the community safer.  Nobody wants criminals among us."

ICE officials found the meeting helpful because they were able to hear the concerns of the community and clear up some misinformation, said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE's investigations office in Boston.

"There is the perception that ICE can be looked at as a kind of Big Brother," he said in an interview Tuesday.  "I think people were able to see up close we're human beings too.  We're not just a big insensitive governmental organization.  There are people behind these uniforms."

But community activists Vera Dias-Freitas and Fausto Darocha are not convinced.  Dias-Freitas said the meeting helped open the lines of communication between police and the Brazilian community, but she worries about how police can maintain credibility within the community.

Darocha said the meeting was not a dialogue, and she felt ICE officials gave programmed responses.

"It was one-sided," he said.  "They educated us, but we didn't have the space to educate them about the community.'

Still, Darocha said the event was a step in the right direction.

The next meeting will be held tonight.  It will cover criminal and constitutional law and domestic violence.

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