Fearful immigrants in US get anti-deportation training

2017-03-12 17:46
Immigrants take a workshop to make a preparedness plan in case they are confronted by immigration officials. (David McNew, AFP)

Immigrants take a workshop to make a preparedness plan in case they are confronted by immigration officials. (David McNew, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - Don't open the front door if immigration officials knock. If you are taken into custody, tell them your name and nothing else. Definitely don't sign anything.

That is some of the advice being given in New York City and around the country at training sessions, put on by advocacy organisations, aimed at helping immigrants living in the country illegally get in as little trouble as possible if they encounter US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Called "know your rights" training, the sessions have been pushed by some groups as a way to prepare for a possible crackdown on illegal immigration under President Donald Trump. Similar training is scheduled in New Mexico and El Paso.

The idea, organisers said, is to give immigrants guidance on how to legitimately push back against attempts to detain them, mostly using tactics designed to keep agents from learning anything they don't already know. The government can't deport someone unless they can prove they are in the US illegally.

At a training session on Tuesday in Queens, a little more than two dozen people sat in a room listening to Yaritza Mendez, an outreach co-ordinator at the pro-immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York. She spoke about various ways ICE agents can find a person, and what to do if they come knocking.

Even people in the country illegally have constitutional rights, Mendez said, such as not being subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, not answering questions and not signing any documents without speaking with an attorney.

Volunteers took part in a role-playing exercise. The audience broke into laughter when a woman wearing a vest with "ICE" taped on it burst into the room after knocking loudly on a door.

"I try to make it interactive because it's long and very sad, in a way," Mendez said.

A lady sitting at the back had a question. If immigration officials knocked on her door, what if she opened it a crack, but kept the chain on?

No, Mendez said. Not even a crack. That's guidance that closely mirrors something criminal defence attorneys have long been telling clients. Letting a law enforcement agent peek inside could give them the probable cause they need to enter without a warrant.


Other advice dispensed during the session: Make sure any warrants presented have the right name and addresses and are signed by a judge. Do not volunteer information. Do not show the agents any fake documents, since doing so is a crime that could land them in much deeper trouble.

Plan ahead for the worst. For example, she said, parents in danger of being detained should have paperwork in place to have someone look after their children, instead of scrambling to find someone in an emergency.

Most of the people in the audience were immigrants in the country illegally.

But they were also people like Pascalina Chirinos, 63, a legal permanent resident from Venezuela who has been in the US for about five years.

She said she attended so she could share the information with friends and neighbours, but also to know her own rights if she were ever caught up even in passing in immigration enforcement efforts.

"In reality, all of us are afraid," Chirinos said in Spanish, through an interpreter. "The air that we breathe is very tense."

'Know-your-rights presentations

In Los Angeles, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Labourer Organising Network, said his organisation is trying to train more people to conduct know-your-rights presentations at schools and churches to keep up with rising community demand.

"We're training the trainers," he said. "People don't have to be lawyers to share what the constitutional rights of people are."

Mendez said Make the Road has been getting calls from churches and other institutions like a local hospital to come and give the training in those places for their staff and clients.

The atmosphere is "fearful", she said. "You don't know what is going to happen the next day."

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  migrants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.