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The Americas Council and Utah attorney general's office are launching an effort to help a group they say is disproportionately targeted by crime: Utah Latinos.
"All too often, the Hispanic community, particularly those who are undocumented, are disproportionately impacted by abuse, harassment and crime," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in Spanish and English at a Capitol press conference on Wednesday.
Such people often are afraid to report crime for fear of deportation. But, "our top priority is stopping criminals and abusers no matter the status or background of victims," Reyes said, adding he hopes to spread that word and reduce worry and crime.
So the groups are launching monthly workshops to teach Latinos how to prevent or report crimes against them.
They will be held at Cole Holland College, 3448 S. 3200 West, in West Valley City on select Saturdays at 10 a.m.
The first, on Sept. 24, will focus on the abuse of immigrants. On Oct. 15, fraud in car sales will be discussed. The Nov. 12 workshop will address fraud in home sales. On Dec. 3, it will cover legal fraud, such as crimes by false notaries.
Workshops throughout 2017 will be held at the same location and time on the first Saturday of each month.
"One of the biggest obstacles facing the Latino community on its way to assimilation is the lack of confidence generated by the abuse and violation of their civil rights," said Victor Hugo Pinilla-Coxe, director of the Americas Council, a partner in the workshops.
Reyes said he can relate to the anxiety of many Latinos. His ancestry is Filipino, and a Filipino grandmother taught him Spanish as a child. He said he faced discrimination and became a target for crime as a person of color.He said he sometimes was "profiled, discriminated against. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not stated but understood. With my father growing up, there were lots of jobs not available to him because of his ethnicity."
Juan Manuel Ruiz, president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, said Reyes' experiences with discrimination have led Latinos to trust Reyes which he believes will help in the workshops and other outreach efforts.
"He's experienced a lot of the issues we have experienced. It's hard to convey that experience, unless you've actually experienced it," Ruiz said.
Reyes said he believes Latinos may be particularly vulnerable to crime for several reasons. He said many naturally tend to be open, sharing and trusting especially with fellow Latinos.
"They assume other people have similar intentions. When you add the undocumented demographic, they are afraid to come forward. They are easy targets because predators know that," he said.