Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hispanics claim targeting

KELLY KERR / Tulsa World
By DEON HAMPTON World Staff Writer Deon Hampton 581-8413
Police are accused of singling out immigrants.

Some police are profiling Hispanics in the wake of the state’s new anti-illegal immigration law, the Rev. Victor Orta said Friday.

A small number of rogue police officers are targeting undocumented immigrants in attempts to have them deported two days after House Bill 1804 went into effect, Tulsa Hispanic leaders said Friday.

Officers will always take the law into their own hands and cross the line, the Rev. Victor Orta said at a press conference.

Police officers recently pulled over a legal American Hispanic while he was driving with his girlfriend and later arrested him because he couldn't prove his identity, Orta said.

The police then told the girlfriend that she should feel lucky that the bill hadn't gone into effect yet, or she would have faced felony charges for "transporting" an illegal immigrant Orta said.

He also spoke of area Hispanics being asked for green cards upon entering their respective apartment complexes.

"The panic level is high," Orta said.

He declined to provide specific details on the incidents, including names.

"I want to protect their privacy," Orta said.

Russell Abbott, an attorney representing many illegal immigrants, also believes local law enforcement are racially profiling Hispanics.

Officers are looking to hand out nuisance traffic tickets in hopes of catching illegal aliens, he said.

"On the surface, it seems like discrimination," Abbott said.

Tulsa County Undersheriff Brian Edwards has said the sheriff's office is only checking the residency status of people who are arrested, not victims or witnesses.

The new law makes it a felony to knowingly transport illegal aliens; creates state barriers to hiring illegal immigrants; requires state contractors to check the immigration status of workers after July 1; and requires proof of citizenship to receive certain government benefits.

Tulsa resident LouAnn Beavers attended the news conference, held at the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as a concerned citizen.

Beavers said she has many friends in fear of deportation, which would split their families.

"I know someone who may pack up her grandchildren and drive to Mexico to meet the children's father once he is arrested and deported by police," she said.

Orta said he believe that police aren't planning to raid homes or set up road blocks to capture Hispanics.

However, after learning the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office planned to conduct a routine roadside safety check Friday night, Orta warned Hispanics to stay home at all costs.

"There's a need to be cautious," Orta said.

The sheriff's office said the roadblock wasn't targeting illegal immigrants and was part of a continuing traffic safety effort.

Connection Clinic, a federally qualified health clinic, plans to offer help for Hispanic children traumatized by events.

"We have bilingual counselors and psychologists to help the children cope during this difficult time," said Laurie Paul, the executive director.

Orta said many children need counseling due to broken families and other reasons.

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