Local immigrants after testifying at the Pioneer Valley Project’s
Action on June 1, 2009 in Springfield, MA.
After hearing a number of very disturbing stories from immigrants
about how they are being targetting by criminals and that they were
having trouble with the police, the Pioneer Valley Project began
working on this issue with the immigrant community in Springfield.
We had a number of meetings where immigrants and other non-English
speaking residents shared their stories. We identified two problems
we wanted to work on:
Difficulty accessing the police in an emergency (calling 911) because
of a lack of operators who speak Spanish and the need to increase
safety for the immigrant community in Springfield. We met with Police
Commissioner Fitchet as well at city councilor Jose Tosado to discuss
these problems and see if we could get some agreements from them to
work on these issues. Jose Tosado was very sympathetic and offered
to do a public hearing on these issues in the North End. As a group
we decided to first try and work with the police to see if they would
agree to make changes. We negotiated an agreement with the Police
Commissioner and at the June 1 PVP Action, attended by about 250 PVP
members, he agreed to publically commit to work on the following
1. The PVP will document specific situations and the Police
Department will investigate and respond to any instances where an
individual who calls 911 is not able to speak with someone in their
own language without delay.
2. The Police Department a) promises to protect every member of the
community regardless of culture, language, race or legal status, b)
does not have a mission of enforcing federal immigration laws, c)
seeks ID for purposes of documenting crimes and investigations rather
than to determine an individual’s immigration status, d) will not take
legal documents or ID documents and will only ask for ID of passengers
in cars or on the street if they believe a crime was commited.
3. The Police Department will name Sergeant John Delaney as a liaison
to the immigrant community, and would like to hear of cases where the
police have acted inappropriately and will investigate documented
problems brought to Sergeant Delaney’s attention.
At the PVP action on June 1, 2009, three immigrants told the following
1. A policeman stopped an immigrant. He asked him for his name and
date of birth and the immigrant gave him this information. The
policeman asked him for an ID. He gave him his passport. The
policeman looked at the passport and said it was no good because the
date of birth was different from the one the man had given him. This
is because we always say our date of birth with the day first and the
month second. The policeman crumpled up the passport saying it wasn’t
2. An immigrant arrived home in his car with his infant daughter. A
policeman was on the street writing a ticket for a car that was parked
there. The policeman looked at the immigrant and said, take your
daughter into the house and come back out. The immigrant did that.
The policeman said, give me your keys and he gave them to him. After
that he asked for his license. Since he didn’t have a license they
towed his car away even though it was parked in front of his house.
3. An immigrant couple arrived home in the car after work. A
policeman was parked near their house. He told them to stop and get
out of the car. He asked for a driver’s license, which they didn’t
have. The policeman did not speak Spanish and a Puerto Rican neighbor
came out the help them. The policeman started searching the car and
opened the woman’s lunch box. She had cashed her check that day and
put her money in the lunchbox, which was about $900. The policeman
asked where that money was from, and she explained. He handcuffed the
man and pushed him to the ground telling him not to move. After
searching the car the policeman said he was going to tow their car
away. The neighbor said, I have a license and I’ll take the car. The
policeman said no and they towed the car away.
4. Immigrants are victims of many crimes. It is well known that they
carry cash with them because many don’t have bank accounts. Groups of
young men wait on the street to assault and rob immigrants and we
always live with the fear of this. Our community needs the protection
of the police and we need to be able to effectively communicate with
the police. But, we feel that the police mistreat us, don’t respect
us and target us. In every community there are people who do not
respect the law. The majority of us are here to work and support our
families. We need the police to protect us just like everyone else.
On Wednesday, September 23rd, we met with Delaney to discuss two
complaints we submitted on behalf of immigrants. These complaints
dealt with two situations where the police were called by immigrants
because they had been the victims of crimes. In both instances, the
police did not have translators and the immigrants were not able to
adequately present their stories to the police. Also, the immigrants
felt that the police did not take their complaints serioulsy. In both
cases, immigrants had been assaulted by others.
We will meet with members of the immigrant community on Wednesday,
October 7th, to discuss the meeting with Delaney and think about next