Advocates for Calif. Immigrants Warn: Be Prepared

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The DACA program remains in place for now, but advocates for California immigrants say anyone at risk of being detained should have an emergency plan and an attorney. Photo Credit: avidcreative/iStockphoto
The DACA program remains in place for now, but advocates for California immigrants say anyone at risk of being detained should have an emergency plan and an attorney. Photo Credit: avidcreative/iStockphoto

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Advocates for California immigrants are speaking out, educating people on their options in light of the Trump administration’s increased enforcement actions.

On the campaign trail, Trump had threatened to revoke Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that allowed temporary work permits for about 750,000 people brought to the United States as children, but it remains in place so far.

However, enforcement officers now can detain undocumented people with no criminal history aside from immigration-related offenses.

Mariam Kelly, senior immigration attorney and DACA program supervisor for Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, said the best way people can protect themselves is to explore all their legal options.

“I cannot stress enough, they can get a legal screening from a qualified immigration attorney,” she said. “I’m going to say that maybe 10 percent of my clients are eligible for some other form of relief, other than DACA.”

Some people may qualify for special immigrant juvenile status, for a “U-Visa” as a victim of a crime, or can petition to stay with relatives who are U.S. citizens. However, Kelly warned that it is unwise for anyone with a prior criminal or immigration-related offense to apply for DACA or to try to renew it.

Attorney Martha Ruch, an Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow and staff attorney for the group Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, said everyone on U.S. soil has rights, even those who are undocumented – including protections against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination.

“So, it’s crucial that everyone know that if they’re being questioned, they should not reveal their immigration status to immigration officials and – to a large extent – to police,” she said, “and to say that they are asserting their right to silence and will not sign anything until they consult with an attorney.”

Ruch said once a person is detained, having an attorney familiar with his or her case can make a big difference. She also advised people at risk of being detained to make an emergency plan, designating someone to care for children or elderly parents.

Other tips: Insist on seeing a warrant before allowing officers to search a home, car or business. Also, a person should never carry foreign identification papers.

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