BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hundreds of immigrants across Baltimore are begging to be heard, as they say they are both victims and witnesses in the surge of violence throughout Baltimore.
These immigrants want to be heard. They have witnessed crimes or been victims themselves, but are afraid they’ll be detained if they come forward.
Afraid to walk the streets, drop their kids off at school, or even leave their homes.
“Put yourself in these peoples’ shoes,” said Shannon Jones, executive director of the Immigrant Outreach Service Center (IOSC).
It’s the harsh reality of immigrants across Baltimore living in fear.
“It’s not just fear, I see terror. They are terrified,” said Rosedale resident Mike Mugo, who is originally from Kenya.
Concerns that are more evident than ever after leaders from Build Baltimore and IOSC collected hundreds of cards from immigrants of local churches.
These handwritten notes were delivered to the police commissioner.
“There were numerous cards that talked about violence, people seeing violence, people in families being involved in violent attacks,” Jones said.
The stories are stomach turning. From a girl who witnessed a murder outside her home, to a boy who’s watched his father be assaulted over and over.
“He says, you know, my father keeps getting up and he keeps saying he’s okay, but he personally, as a child, feels this is killing his father,” Jones said.
Many are afraid to call police.
“Afraid to come forward because they might be identified or seen, and if they’re not fully documented, that could be a serious problem,” said Father Joe Muth, pastor at St. Matthew & Blessed Sacrament Church.
“Immigrants are now generally staying away from police, they do not want any interaction,” Mugo said.
Mugo also says they want Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis to be more vocal in supporting them.
“Sometimes, we don’t have distinction between ICE and police,” Mugo said. “We see the police, we see ICE.”
What some feel is a missing link to help curb crime that’s out of control.
“If you build strong relationships between immigrants and police, it will help with enforcement of reporting crimes,” Mugo added.
“I think this might be a key time, that might turn the tide in violence,” Jones said.
Commissioner Davis has released statements in the past saying the Baltimore Police Department would not enforce federal laws.
Police reiterated that when WJZ reached out to them.
These local leaders are hoping to meet with the commissioner in the coming weeks.
The commissioner was slated to meet with immigrant families on Sunday, but had to cancel due to an unexpected personal matter.
Since January, the IOSC says their workload has tripled due to immigration concerns throughout Baltimore.
“This is absolutely crucial, we feel this is something that needs to be handled immediately,” Jones said. “We need some response, we need the commissioner to come forward, take a stand with the community, so people feel safer.”
“They may need to work a little harder to reassure that immigrants are not a target. The general perception in the community is that immigrants are being targeted and police are in the front line,” Mugo said.