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Hispanic advocacy group discusses immigration during Tuesday meeting

WORTHINGTON -- Members of the local Hispanic advocacy group Manos Unidas gathered Tuesday with representatives of local churches and law enforcement to discuss immigration issues and other topics.

WORTHINGTON -  Members of the local Hispanic advocacy group Manos Unidas gathered Tuesday with representatives of local churches and law enforcement to discuss immigration issues and other topics.

 

Manos Unidas was created five years ago through the efforts of retired Presbyterian pastor Jim Krapf and Worthington resident Antonio Colindres.The main goal of the group is to build bridges between the Hispanic community and Caucasian residents. Since its beginning, the group has worked closely with the Worthington Police Department to develop relationships between residents and officers.

 

The Tuesday gathering brought pastors from several local churches along with Worthington Police Chief Troy Appel.

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The goal of the meeting, Krapf said, was to bring Caucasian and Hispanic church leaders together to address the needs of the Hispanic community. The meeting also introduced some of the topics that will be discussed more in depth during an upcoming public forum organized by Manos Unidas and the WPD.

 

“I hope the meeting will help clarify the concerns that are part of the Hispanic community and clarify the role that the police play - how we can best work together to make this a safe community for everybody.”

Appel spoke Tuesday about the correlation between local law enforcement and immigration issues. He said one of the topics to be discussed during the upcoming public forum will concern what to do during a traffic stop when an individual doesn’t have a driver’s license.

 

“Every summer, one of our primary issues in Worthington is traffic enforcement for people who don’t have a driver license or don't understand responsibilities associated with driving or owning a motor vehicle,” Appel said.

 

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Appel said local officers won’t ask about residents’ country of origin if they are stopped by an officer while driving. He added the officer will only ask for his or her driver’s license and the vehicle registration.

 

“As police officers we need to rely on the information regarding a particular incident … and not national origin or any type of background issues,” Appel said.  

 

Appel advises undocumented individuals to provide their real name and information when stopped by an officer. A false name or documentation could lead to other more severe charges, he said.

 

However, Appel added that a more in-depth search of the individual’s background is done when he or she is taken to jail, which could lead to the involvement of immigration officers.

 

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“When somebody goes to jail, that’s a different issue,” Appel said. “Then we are dealing with criminal matters, and then typically the jail will do a research in that person's background. That's when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or immigrant issues will surface.”

 

Appel added that in the event ICE would come to Worthington, local officers would collaborate with them. He said immigration agents’ main targets are only those people with a criminal record.

 

“Hopefully with the focus on these criminals, we can help those who are easily victimized,” Appel said. “New people to our community are often easily victimized, so our hope is  that we can provide the public safety to all the people from Worthington.”  

 

Appel assured that undocumented individuals shouldn’t be afraid to report crimes to law enforcement, as officers won’t ask for any information that doesn’t relate to the particular incident.

“If a person is to come in and report a crime and they are undocumented, there is little to no concern that the police will show up and check their documentation,” Appel said. “That’s not part of how we conduct our investigation.”

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