Immigrants  Encouraged to  "Know Your Rights"

Photo courtesy: CHIRLA

ICE resistance protests are being held in major cities and immigrant rights information is being distributed. This protest was held in downtown Los Angeles.

“Don’t open the door.”

“Don’t talk to them.”

“Don’t let them in.”

And “organize with your neighbors.”

Those are the recommendations given by Ron Gochez of the community organization Union del Barrio in case Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents show up at an undocumented immigrant’s house.

The suggestions come as the group launches “Comités de Resistencia” (Resistance Committees). Gochez said the first meeting to organize “Resistance Committees” would be Saturday, July 13, at 10 a.m. at 4301 S. Central Avenue in Los Angeles.

The campaign aims to organize individuals to defend themselves from immigration raids, which are feared to be enacted soon after US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli confirmed that they are ready for such operations.  

Cuccinelli has been quoted saying the agents have been “all the way through the due process and have final removal orders” for who will be targeted. “The pool of those with final removal orders is enormous,” he added.

President Trump had delayed a 10-city ICE raid planned for the end of June, but has said deportations would take place if Democrats weren’t able to successfully negotiate changes to immigration policies, including asylum current practices and “loopholes” for migrants to enter the United States. As of June 22, Congress was given “two weeks” by Trump to change the asylum laws.

Knowing Your Rights

“The objective is to inform our community of what to do and what not to do if ICE comes to the door,” Gochez said. “For them to know their rights, what they should do and to organize themselves in the community.”

That includes talking and sharing phone numbers with your neighbors so that in case ICE agents show up at your door, you can call the neighbors right away. They in turn can call the media and pro-immigrant groups, who would show up to assist.

“You have to make such a big deal about it that they leave,” Gochez emphasized.

While Gochez doubts ICE will go after “the millions” promised by Trump, he says immigration raids have been occurring and will continue, much like they did under President Barack Obama, when the highest number of yearly deportations reached approximately 410,000 in 2012. Last year, ICE deported more than 250,000 undocumented people.

Those who could find themselves in the crosshairs of those operations are fearful.

 “Yes, we’re fearful, but the one most fearful is my older son,” admits a northeast San Fernando Valley mother with three young children, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We depend on my husband and if we were separated it would be a tragedy. We only hope this proposal is not true.”

Gochez points out that the worry is that many deportations are of undocumented people with no criminal record whose only “crime is being here on this side of the border.”

Searching State DMV Databases 

It’s also been reported that ICE and the FBI are using state driver’s license databases and facial recognition technology to scan through “millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent” in the search for those to deport.

At least three states that issue undocumented driver’s licenses — Washington, Utah and Vermont — have had their Department of Motor Vehicle databases searched by the two agencies, according to the Washington Post.

California began issuing AB60 driver’s licenses in 2015 and millions of undocumented people are now able to drive because of them. But what seemed like a godsend is now a reason to worry.

While California is apparently not on the list of states that authorities have tapped into its database for information, the mistrust has taken hold. Centro Mexico and Union del Barrio officials are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to investigate whether California DMV databases are or have been tapped into by ICE and/or the FBI.

“Stop driving? No, because we depend on this to get us to our jobs, but you do feel intimidated,” said a woman who has an AB60 driver’s license.

Pro-immigrant activist Gloria Saucedo of Centro México in Panorama City said they feel betrayed.

“Many community organizations supported and trusted the government telling people to solicit AB60 driver’s licenses and now they come out with this,” she said.

For years Saucedo and her group have urged the undocumented to carry “red cards” with information on what to do in case they are stopped by ICE.

Now they’re considering renewing something they used to do before AB60 driver’s licenses came to be — posting themselves in areas ahead of sobriety checkpoints and trying to warn people that authorities are “going to check their driver’s licenses,” Saucedo said.

But she admits this is a double edge sword. “If they don’t have the driver’s licenses, they can be stopped, and if they do get it, they can fall into this (database),” Saucedo said.

For the driver with an AB60 driver’s license, the news leaves her with an uneasy feeling.

She said that it might cause people to provide false names, “even if that sometimes can get us in trouble.”

And she added that some might be apprehensive about getting them in the future.

“Maybe people will not solicit them again for fear of providing information,” the woman said.

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