Hispanic community in East Texas concerned new law may lead to unreported crime

Updated: May. 9, 2017 at 7:06 PM CDT
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People waiting outside (Source: KLTV)
People waiting outside (Source: KLTV)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - As details about the passing of Senate Bill 4 spread among Hispanics in East Texas, a new issue arose.

The issue stems from the provision in the law which allows police to ask anyone who is detained about their immigration status.

Residents of Tyler's Hispanic community tell us that they are concerned that this law may keep some people from reporting crimes.

Near the intersection of Beckham Avenue and Line Street in Tyler, you'll see a mix of Spanish culture, supermarkets and people, all living in this Spanish speaking area.

You'll also find the Panaderia Nuevo Leon, it's a bakery where some are concerned about the safety of their community moving forward.  

Mirna Ortega works at the bakery and she says that's a real fear that is paralyzing many that she speaks with.

"That if you are a witness on a crime, and if you do not have any papers, if you're not resident alien, they won't come forward. They're scared that a police will ask them for their citizenship," says Ortega.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says that's not the case.

"There's a specific exclusion for people who are victims of crimes, or who are witnesses. They cannot be asked anything about immigration status unless it somehow relates to the crime," says Paxton.

It's an explanation Ortega says not all will trust.

"If I know that I'm not a legal alien here...I will not come forward because even though they say they won' never know," says Ortega.

"If something were about to happen here, I think everyone would just run off, don't say anything, so I think it's scary," says Ortega.

Paxton claims that under the victim and witness protections, that argument and that issue doesn't create a problem.

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