In a Jun. 2018 meeting, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo, or CCDP, the Latino Chamber of Commerce and several city officials grappled with the troubling fact that the local immigrant community was uncomfortable reporting a crime to the police. To address the issue, CCDP invited Pueblo’s district attorney, a police department sergeant, the county sheriff’s chief and other local leaders to better understand the legal immigration process and some of the unique issues and challenges immigrants face in this Colorado town.
In the weeks following the meeting, CCDP and law enforcement increased collaborations to reduce the newcomers’ fear of interacting with the police. A community liaison officer from the Pueblo Police Department and the district attorney began attending “Know Your Rights” presentations provided regularly by CCDP. The officials answered questions from the audience in a safe environment, giving community members a chance to have a positive interaction with local law enforcement. Police officers now visit CCDP to take statements and file reports for community members who were previously reluctant to report a crime at the police station. Now, CCDP and Pueblo police work together more effectively, reducing wait times to obtain U visa certifications. Because city officials have a better understanding of the services offered by CCDP, they have begun referring more constituents to the organization.
The affiliate’s partnership with the city has resulted in closer cooperation and communication between them and the community. However, the path took many steps. Fikile Ryder, CCDP’s immigration program coordinator, works on integration programing and was the agency’s point of contact with the city. She described how integration began with educating CCDP staff on what integration is and encouraging them to think deliberately about it in their programming decisions and overall goals and objectives. To have a truly impactful integration initiative, CCDP used CLINIC’s “Immigrant Integration Measurement Survey: Client Perspective” to collect responses from clients. Through the survey, they identified anxiety around police interactions as an issue negatively affecting the community.
Ryder knew the agency needed a concrete understanding of city structure and priorities as she prepared to approach them. After receiving agency and director approvals to build a relationship with the local government, CCDP partnered with the Latino Chamber of Commerce to co-host the event. They sent out invitations to agencies that could help encourage communication and build trust between community members and law enforcement. The meeting was advertised as an opportunity for city officials to learn more about serving underserved populations and kick-start collaborative work. For Ryder, the meeting underscored what the agency’s previous integration work had revealed: many of the citizens of Pueblo knew little about the legal immigration system or the challenges immigrants face.
While CCDP and the Latino Chamber of Commerce laid the groundwork for subsequent collaboration with the city, Ryder acknowledged that “what made the collaboration possible was a desire from the city to serve all immigrants in the community, regardless of status.” The successful outcomes have made the agency eager to collaborate in future initiatives. “We want to encourage city departments across Pueblo to hire more bilingual officials and employees, expand language services across the city and have more translated materials available. Ultimately, we want to continue collaboration that works towards making the city and the community more inclusive for all immigrants.”