Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reaction mixed to arrest of restaurant owners, workers

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In the articles about the recent arrests of the owners and employees of El Pollo Rico, statements were made indicating that the immigrant community might feel they can no longer trust the police.

Doesn’t trust go both ways? Shouldn’t the police be able to trust the immigrant community as well? If one family’s having to accept the consequences of committing multiple crimes will cause the entire community to lose trust in the very people who protect them day and night, our definition of trust is warped. The greater community must understand that when a crime is committed and the criminal is caught, the people violating the trust are not those enforcing the law.

This reminds me of a child who chooses not to study for a test and blames the teacher for flunking her. The criminals blame the police for catching them.

Federal officers arrested the restaurant owners and several family members, who were then charge with employing and harboring illegal immigrants, money laundering and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements.

Immigration is a polarizing issue; illegal immigration seems to be impossible to prevent. Characterizing law enforcement as betraying the trust of the immigrant community by doing their job is unfair and inaccurate. Those betraying the trust are the ones committing the crimes. Those upholding the trust are the ones who work to keep all members of our community safe, whether they are here legally or not.

Kate Granados, Silver Spring

The presence of county police in a support role during the July 12 raid on El Pollo Rico Restaurant constituted a serious violation of the trust built up between the immigrant community and the county.

Lt. Porsha Jones’ distinction between the criminal investigation and the apprehension of undocumented workers now facing probable deportation is a bit nuanced; the criminal investigation reportedly includes the employment of undocumented workers. And Country Executive Isiah Leggett’s description of the police role as backup is no great comfort and arguably breaks faith with a significant part of our community.

As a former director of operations for the Montgomery County Private Industry Council, I attended the first meetings to establish a day laborer center. There was goodwill from all parties, including law enforcement from both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Now look at the mixed message. On the one hand, the county acknowledges the business and residential demand for immigrant labor, regardless of legal status, and has established an orderly manner of accessing that labor that protects all parties. On the other hand, the county’s support and backup role in the raid now makes it risky to use those services.

Frederick B. Mills, Silver Spring

The writer is an associate professor at Bowie State University.