CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Thursday when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have their Bridging the Difference community conversation about immigration, there’s a hope that the frank discussion will make a difference.
“I believe it should be a concern for the whole community,” said Cristobel Morel. “The immigration matter.”
Morel, owner of Punta Cana Restaurant on South Boulevard, says many of his customers are from Latin American or Caribbean countries. When immigration is at a fever pitch tone, Morel says his regulars don’t come out and business slows down.
“We lose customers, said said Morel. “People be afraid to go out, be afraid to work.”
Morel says he doesn’t believe immigrants are afraid of CMPD. He says he makes a point to work together with officers from CMPD’s Westover Division.
Morel thinks local immigrants are afraid of the federal government and deportation.
Pastor Rusty Price will moderate the Bridging the Difference conversation.
“Immigration is such a broad top and is very complex so there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there,” said Pastor Price. "The hope is as people come they'll ask their questions about how local police deal with the immigration issue as well as our new Sheriff and some of the policies he will be implementing."
Willie Ratchford, Executive Director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, says “as a result of these conversations it will lead to accountability. It leads to trust. It leads to relationship building."
Tony Mejia isn’t so sure.
“The whole cop thing is scary for some people especially that don’t have papers,” said Mejia. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Mejia says this conversation is nothing new in home of legal and illegal immigrants.
“It’s something I think about. Usually when my parents bring it up, we talk about it all the time. They always tell me their stories – this and that – the whole immigration now is different than how it used to be.”
Mejia says he doesn’t think people who are in the country unlawfully differentiate between local police and federal agents.
“A lot of people I know that don’t have papers I know they’re afraid of dealing with any kind of police,” said Mejia, which is why he’s not sure the Bridging the Difference conversation will make a difference.
But Cristobel Morel at Punta Cana Restaurant believes something positive can happen.
“I hope so. I hope so,” said Morel. “I hope they come to the issues to resolve the immigration matter that can be impacted to the community.”
The Bridging the Difference on immigration will take place on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Camino Community Center, 201 Stetson Drive in University City area.