SAN JUAN – Dominicans living in Puerto Rico, the largest community of foreigners in the island, hail the fact that at last police on the island have been banned from carrying out detentions solely to question a person’s migrant status.
The Dominican consul in Puerto Rico, Franklin Grullon, told EFE on Friday in an interview that the new measure is part of a police reform currently underway that will provide relief for the many thousands of his compatriots living in the Free Associated State without having their migratory status in order.
Puerto Rican Police Chief Jose Caldero said Thursday night that he signed a general order that goes into force Friday, which establishes that no police agent can detain a person solely in order to check on his or her migratory status.
The diplomat said that, for example, in cases of gender violence against women of his country, personnel of the Dominican Consulate have accompanied those victims to the police station out of fear they will be questioned about their immigration status, something no longer necessary under the order signed by Caldero.
Grullon noted that the order establishes a precise protocol in cases of detentions of all foreigners, but whose main beneficiary is the Dominican community that officially numbers close to 250,000.
Members of the Dominican community have complained for years about harassment by Puerto Rican police, whose agents at times act as if they were immigration authorities.
“I’m glad the measure has been implemented,” the president of the Dominican Human Rights Committee, Jose Rodriguez, told EFE on Friday
Rodriguez noted that while this is a step in the right direction and the situation has improved substantially over what it was, there are still cases of police agents acting as if they have the legal authority to intervene in migratory affairs.
It is of vital importance that foreigners in Puerto Rico, regardless of their immigration status, report to police those crimes of which they are the victims so the respective investigations may be launched,” Caldero said during the signing of the document.
What led to the reform was the 2011 publication of a report by the American Civil Liberties Union which said that between 2005-2010 almost 2,000 local police agents committed crimes of different kinds, including the improper treatment of members of the Dominican community.