Brazilians community praises police seminars

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Brazilians community praises police seminars Friday, November 23, 2007
Liz Mineo 508-626-3825 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - Over the past three weeks, Brazilian civic leaders have met with federal and state officials as part of an effort by the police to forge a better relationship with immigrants.

With one week until graduation ceremonies for the "Law and Justice Seminar for Immigrant Populations" sponsored by the Framingham police, Brazilian leaders hope the dialogue will continue.

"It's in the interest of both sides," said Vera Dias-Freitas, a Brazilian advocate and a businesswoman.  "Now that we have started the dialogue, it should be ongoing. It should be kept alive."

The idea of the four-week seminar stemmed from the town's first meeting between government leaders and the Brazilian community this summer.  Police set up the seminar with topics covering concerns raised by the community during the June 18 session.  Nearly 40 Brazilian civic leaders are attending the seminar.

The first session on Nov. 8 featured officials from Boston's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office, who explained immigration laws and its enforcement.  Last week, officials from the Middlesex District Attorney's Office talked about constitutional and criminal laws.  Wednesday night, officials from the Registry of Motor Vehicles explained regulations on how to obtain driver's licenses.

For Brazilian advocates attending the seminar, the sessions have helped them have a better understanding of the workings of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, local police and the District Attorney's Office.  They have also helped dispel rumors and misunderstanding about what federal, state and local institutions can do regarding immigration, said Fernando Castro, a local businessman.

"What I love is getting the information from the right source," said Castro.  "They're not there to solve our problems.  They're there to educate the community and hear our concerns."

A former Town Meeting member, Sidney Pires said he has learned a lot.  "Many people didn't have any idea how the system works here," he said.  "It's very different from Brazil."

Police hope the seminar helps foster cooperation between police and the Brazilian community and encourage Brazilians to report crimes.  The meetings' purpose is to decrease fear and victimization among immigrants, as stated in the invitation for the events.

Dias-Freitas said the meetings are a step in the right direction.  The community, she said, feels empowered by the amount and scope of information gained during the seminar, and would like the dialogue to go beyond the seminar.

"They (the police) are introducing us to institutions we didn't have a way to reach before," said Dias-Freitas.  "We would like to continue the dialogue between the institutions and the Brazilian community.  It's in everybody's interest."

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