Some Latinos in Omaha are fearful their legal status will be a cause for arrest by Omaha law enforcement due to President Trump's new Executive Order on immigration, which has prompted local immigration lawyers to draft a new communication tool for individuals to carry around in their pocket.
Blanca Mejia, Executive Director with the Latino Community Betterment Corporation says local organizations are now distributing 'rights cards' for those who may fear police due to a language or cultural barrier.
"Our community has fear to call the police sometimes. Why? Because sometimes we have the misconception that if I call the police, the first thing that he’s going to do is, let me see your documentation," says Mejia. "We may know police are just doing their job and won't stop us for no reason, but when you see sirens, and you don't know what they're saying to you or know the judicial system in the U.S., you're going to panic. And that panic could escalate to a situation that could've been avoided with better communication."
On the front, the cards read:
"My name is _____. I choose to exercise my right to remain silent. I will not speak to anyone, respond to accusations, waive any of my legal rights, sign any papers, or consent to any search of my person, papers, or property until I have obtained the advice of an attorney.
Please let me know if I am under arrest or free to go. If I am under arrest, please let me make a phone call so I can obtain a lawyer. Thank you."
The back lists an emergency contact and the individual's attorney, should they have one.
Mejia says the cards are not meant to be disruptive towards community-police relations, but instead, open an avenue for more peaceful confrontations when individuals are approached by police.
'When a person is stopped or approached, they can just pull out their card, and say, 'Here's this.' Which is a way to let them know, I want protection, I want to be safe, and I don't want to give you any trouble. Or that they need an interpreter."
Mejia says OPD has seen their cards and are now working together to create a revised draft with alternative wording.
Mayor Jean Stothert and OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer have said Omaha is not a sanctuary city, but say OPD's mission is not to serve as an extension of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will not focus on arresting or stopping individuals based on legal status.