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NYPD Turns to Churches To Assure Undocumented NYers They'll Be Protected

By Gwynne Hogan | February 15, 2017 4:23pm
 Inspector Maximo Tolentino (center) asked Bushwick religious leaders to assure their undocumented congregants that they can still call the police.
Inspector Maximo Tolentino (center) asked Bushwick religious leaders to assure their undocumented congregants that they can still call the police.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BUSHWICK — Police are turning to Brooklyn churches and clergy to get out the word that the NYPD doesn't care about your immigration status.

After last week's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests of 41 people in the New York City area during which at least one Bushwick man was rounded up, the NYPD made an effort to get the word out to faith leaders that local law enforcement is not a threat.

"We’re not in charge of deporting anybody, we don't own any planes," Inspector Maximo Tolentino, the head of Bushwick's 83rd Precinct, urged pastors gathered at a Wednesday meeting of the neighborhood's clergy council. "Our borders are the borders of Bushwick. Please get that message out to everybody."

"We don't want anyone to be a victim who needs the police and they don't [call us] because they're afraid," Tolentino continued in Spanish.

Churches have gotten a flood of calls and visits from concerned parishioners in recent weeks, religious leaders said at Wednesday's clergy council meeting.

Bishop Michael Clarke, the president of Bushwick's Clergy Council though his congregation Reedemer's Tabernacle recently relocated from Bushwick to Flatlands, said the ICE arrests have translated to a fear of police in some cases.

"Somebody called me yesterday saw several police officers by the subway and they were afraid to go and pick up their child school," he said. "She was virtually terrified."

He'd urged the woman to calm down, assuring her that because of New York City's status as a sanctuary city, local police don't enforce immigration laws, he said.

"You tell your people," Clarke urged the several dozen religious leaders gathered Wednesday. "We are pastors, we're supposed to pass all information we have to the congregation."