By Tabitha Mueller
Approximately 200 people gathered Wednesday evening for a community forum on immigration at the Ministerio Palabra de Vida in Reno. The Reno Police Department, in coordination with various other government agencies, hosted the town hall-style forum to allow community members to pose questions to panelists from law enforcement and other relevant agencies.
The Reno Police Department hoped the forum would help dispel what they said were myths surrounding police and to reduce barriers between law enforcement and undocumented immigrants.
Panelists from the District Attorney’s office, Homeland Security, Nevada Highway Patrol, and the Washoe County School District Police, along with other related agencies answered questions about visa issues, undocumented immigrant rights, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) warrants, among other topics.
Rev. Dr. César Minera and his daughter Krystal Minera moderated the conversation and translated questions and answers into Spanish and English.
“One of the reasons [that we hosted this event] is that, two months ago, the state of Mississippi was doing a lot of raids, deporting people. The second one was the Texas shooting at Walmart, in which Hispanics were targeted,” said Rev. Dr. Minera. “We thought it was an important time to have it so that we can create relationships, have a conversation, and put the community at ease.”
For us, especially local law enforcement, we’re not concerned or interested in your immigration status.”
Officer Travis Warren, with the Reno Police Department, noted how fear of deportation often prevents immigrants from reporting crimes. He hoped the forum would dispel the myth that Reno’s police department enforces immigration law.
“For us, especially local law enforcement, we’re not concerned or interested in your immigration status…We really want our citizens–especially those who are undocumented–to feel comfortable coming to us. Our first and foremost interest is making sure that they’re safe,” he said.
Officer Warren’s partner, Officer Tasheeka Claiborne, added, “I think the goal for the whole event is to just build a better relationship between the community and the undocumented immigrant population of the city of Reno.”
Ramón Acosta, an attorney, and attendee of the forum was pleased with the event.
“The takeaway from tonight for the community members is not to be afraid [to call 911] if they’re a victim of a crime. You’re a victim, you’re a witness, just come forward.”
Cynthia Nuñez, an outreach coordinator at Tu Casa Latina, hoped the panel would have included nonprofits working with Reno’s immigrant community.
“There’s a lot of local nonprofits here in town. I work for a local nonprofit, so there is help out there,” Nuñez said. “And there are agencies who are willing to address questions free of charge that are just as informed on what’s going on with our political climate.”
Sheriff Darin Balaam was excited the event drew a large turnout and level of community engagement. He hopes to incorporate feedback from community members like Nuñez into future events.
“I think [tonight’s forum] was a great first step, and now it’s building this relationship and tearing down some of the rumors we heard today, lowering that mirror and showing the community that we’re here to help,” he said.