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Immigrant Rights More Important than Ever

July 13, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Photo/Jonathan McIntosh

As a result of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies introduced by the Trump Administration, the growing concern within undocumented immigrant communities for their finances and futures is capturing the attention of labor and immigrant rights organizations.

Multimedia ethnic news agency New American Media, and Ready California, a coalition that helps other organizations acquire information to help immigrant communities, hosted a national press call Tuesday, July 11, to discuss individual immigrant rights, labor rights and personal finances.

Attorneys and representatives of several immigrant rights and labor organizations joined in on the call to debunk myths that often leave undocumented immigrant communities in fear.

The press call addressed some of the most common actions that immigrants can take to protect themselves and what employers can do to protect their employees from workplace raids. They also provided advice on how immigrants can protect their personal finances and property.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Although there are multiple reports of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement increasing enforcement actions, they are using the same tactics that they have used in the past to identify, detain and place individuals in deportation proceedings, according to Grisel Ruiz, a staff attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

She said the tools ICE is using are the same but it is the newfound fear from the election that has had an impact on immigrant communities, causing people to be afraid to go out, take their children to school, and even seek out services.

The attorney noted that although the administration has a “laser focus” on immigrant communities, those individuals need to keep in mind that there are several steps that President Trump must take to fully employ his plan and that they have rights too.

“There are certain constitutional rights that we still have that immigrants can still rely on and these constitutional rights protect everybody regardless of immigration status,” Ruiz said.

Those rights include the right to remain silent in front of ICE agents and the right to not allow ICE agents into the home and request a judicial warrant. Ruiz said individuals who are detained can also file a motion to suppress if ICE agents entered their home without permission.

Ruiz said it is also very important that if an individual is detained that they never sign anything before speaking with an immigration attorney.

“Despite the efforts that the administration is taking and despite the fear at the moment that we are under there are still many steps that can be taken by both immigrants and employers alike to protect themselves,” Ruiz said.

EMPLOYERS CAN PROTECT WORKERS TOO
Similar to how individuals can request that ICE agents provide warrants before arrest, employers can request agents to provide warrants and subpoenas during workplace raids or “targeted enforcement.”

Michael Young, legislative advocate for the California Labor Federation, said one way to protect workers is by employers exercising their right to ask for warrants and subpoenas before handing over private information.

The California Labor Federation is at the forefront of a new legislation that would require employers to ask for warrants and subpoenas and would give notice to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

“We might not in the State of California be able to tell ICE what to do and we can’t regulate federal immigration law but we can regulate employer behavior we can say that employers have an obligation to protect the workers and they have to take certain actions to make sure that those rights are protected,” Young said.

He added that legislation also known as AB450, would not completely shield undocumented immigrant workers but it would limit ICE access to the workplace and would give employers guidance.

Young said that enforcement actions at the works place have a downward pressure on wages and a decrease in working conditions for all workers regardless of immigration status.

Cal Soto, national workers rights coordinator for the National Day Labor Organizing Network, said people who might have made health and safety claims, wage claims, or filed police reports, abstain from doing so because of fear of immigration enforcement.

Soto said the mentally becomes, “it’s better safe than arrested and potentially deported.”

PROTECTING FINANCES AND PROPERTY

Mohan Kanungo, director of Programs and Engagement for Mission Asset Fund, said people feel a sense of fear and uncertainty and ask about closing their bank account for fear of being left without their finances.
There is a significant impact from immigration costs on those individuals and their pocketbooks, according to Kanungo, such as:

• Bail bond costs related to immigration detainment can be about $10,000
• Legal representation can range from $3,000 to $5,000 or more
• Transfer guardianship can range from $2,000 to $4,000
• Attorney related fees for fixing immigration status can range from $5,000 to $25,000 or more
Kanungo said there are workshops available that address those questions and they suggest paying bills on time, allowing online account access, initiating online transfers and sharing accounts with trusted family members.

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