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The Rights of our “Deportable” Brothers and Sisters

By Marcelino Miyares-Several weeks ago we proposed a universal Bill of Rights for Undocumented Americans.  More recently we published an Acknowledgement of Responsibilities.  We are trying to establish a framework for responsible debate on what still seems to be a “third rail” issue.

And then the year opens with raids – which have a terrorizing effect on at least 11 million people living here within our borders.  Plus the millions more parents, children and loved ones who are already either legal residents or American Citizens. How many “Documented” Americans know, love, or employ an Undocumented American? The terrifying ripple effect of these raids might easily be felt by one in five Americans, if not one in four or three.

As of earlier this week almost 150 families have already been directly affected by the detention of a loved one.  This round of home and work incursions seem to be driven by the increase in Central American immigration.  Ironically, much of this traffic is the result of an uptick in gang-related violence back in their countries of origin.  Fear here…fear there.

We pride ourselves as citizens of a nation of laws.  A country where the law matters and law-abiding citizens thrive.  If this is the case then why do these raids feel more like theatre than enforcement.  When do we hear about raids on gangs and brothels?  When do we read about raids on sweatshops and other employers who exploit their labor forces (except for immigration raids of course)?

The answer is obvious.  It seems that we only announce a raid strategy when we know the target has absolutely no leverage, no way to defend or fight back.  Or equally as likely, we advertise it as a policy measure when it has some political expediency or purpose. The Obama Administration orders deferred action and peace of mind for some only to expedite the blanket deportation and terrorization of others.  In theory the focus is criminals.  In reality the raids target anyone.

Well, we’ve been doing some digging and apparently there is some defense against the unlawful detention of anyone in this country – even an Undocumented Immigrant.

First:  Only an ICE agent can detain you.  Local police cannot, unless you have broken a law.

Second:  The ICE agent must have a warrant.  Neither you nor your employer is obligated to open the door if they cannot show you a warrant.  Do not let them in.

Third: Remain silent.  Do not say anything except “I have the right to remain silent” and “I have a right to talk to my attorney.”  Do not tell them where you were born.  Do not tell them how you came to the United States.  Do not sign anything or show them any documents unless you have a U.S. Birth Certificate or “green card”.  Do not show or give them any false documents. If you do not say or sign anything you cannot be tricked.

This is much harder done than said.  But we live in a nation where due process matters.  In other words, how a law is enforced is just as important as the law itself.  ICE has to prove that you are not here “legally” before you have to prove that you are.  Even if you are undocumented know that you cannot be deported without being given the opportunity to see a judge and with legal representation.

So let us Americans all tell our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and friends that the very same legal system that that prompted the raid can also protect them.  Stick to the guidelines above. There is as much propaganda as purpose in the current raids.  Get legal help and be ready in the unlikely event that you are the victim of a raid.  You may still be detained but deportation is much more challenging.

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