LORAIN, Ohio — Police Chief Cel Rivera recalls his first meeting with undocumented Mexican immigrants in 2013, when he learned that minor traffic infractions were leading to federal detention, deportation proceedings and the risk of broken families.
He was struck by the story of Anabel Barron, a single mother who was picked up for driving 6 miles per hour over the speed limit and wound up in a federal detention center for seven hours, fretting over the future of her four children if she was deported.
Rivera awoke at 4 a.m. the next morning and wrote out a new policy that forbids officers from detaining or arresting anyone just because they lack the proper papers. The response, amid scattered opposition voiced in e-mails and on the radio, has been a kind of immigration truce in this city of 63,000, which is 25% Hispanic.
“We wanted them to know that they could feel as protected as anyone in the city,” says Rivera, whose Puerto Rican heritage is shared by many in Lorain. “When they come this far, they’re just looking to work on the farms for $7 an hour. They’re not committing crimes here.”