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Immigrant group confronts 110th over day labor arrests

New Immigrant Community Empowerment, located on Roosevelt Avenue, has been helping immigrants communicate with various city, state and federal agencies since it was founded following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.The group became involved in the day laborers' problems when some of its employees witnessed firsthand police ticketing the mostly Hispanic men who wait on street corners looking for work in construction, demolition and other jobs requiring unskilled labor.At the 110th Precinct Community Council meeting March 16, Shirley Lin, the group's community organizer, patiently waited with five day laborers and other members of her organization to ask the commander of the precinct why the laborers had been ticketed for standing on the sidewalk. She also presented a letter that was sent to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and carbon copied to other local politicians and the mayor, written by the group."Why is it they are arrested?" Lin asked the commanding officer. "It's their constitutional right to stand there.""You're right, they can't be arrested for standing on the sidewalk," said Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Martin J. Conway. "They can (be arrested) if they go into the street looking to stop cars."Conway said he would look into the arrests, read the letter Lin had brought and meet with her at a later date.Lin said many of the laborers, who she does not see only as immigrants or day laborers but as community members, are intimidated by police and do not realize that there are organizations, such as the community council, in place to tackle their concerns."We're addressing misconceptions on both sides," said Lin from the group's offices in the basement of a restaurant Monday. "NICE bridges gaps."The group hopes to establish a dialogue with both sides to resolve the problem."The first step is to work with the police on this issue," said Lin. "We need to remove the distrust and fear of the police in the immigrant community."Lin said she had contacted the community affairs officer at the 110th Precinct to set up the meeting mentioned by Conway but had not heard back at the beginning of the week. The 110th Precinct encompasses the communities of Corona and Elmhurst.While waiting for a meeting with the police, Lin made it clear about her feelings on the "sweeps" as she calls them."I think it's unconscionable," she said. "It's not effective policing. It's an affront to an individual or group's dignity."Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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