Election Concerns for Immigrants
Education | December 12, 2016
We Are With You
On November 9, 2016, the United States awoke to learn that Donald Trump–a man whose harsh anti-immigration rhetoric permeated the campaign–will be the next President of the United States on Inauguration Day. His policy proposals have included mass deportations, a border wall, and the end of compassionate, common-sense enforcement policies, like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This news has understandably shaken members of the immigrant community and their allies. While much remains unknown about what the Trump Administration will actually do, here are four things you should know for now:
1. Don’t panic, understand your rights, and don’t be afraid to assert them:
Regardless of who is in the White House, every person within the United States–whether documented or not–has certain rights under the U.S. Constitution. Among those are:
- Your right to remain silent, including when questioned about the country of your birth or your manner of entry into the United States;
- Your right to consult with an attorney, which you should do before signing any immigration-related documents; and
- Your right to be secure in your home from unreasonable searches, which includes your right to not open your door unless Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) presents a warrant signed by a judge.
- If you have to deal with ICE, remember that you have rights and should assert them
2. Know your options under the law:
Don’t make any hasty decisions. Rather, speak to a qualified immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representative to understand your options under the law. When seeking legal counsel, however, be careful not to get scammed by bad attorneys, or non-attorney notaries who are not qualified to give legal advice.
If you do not have an attorney or representative and need assistance securing one, you can call the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline (NILAH) (1-855-307-6730) to seek immigration legal services from one of these agencies: Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska, Catholic Charities, the Center for Legal Immigration Assistance, Lutheran Family Services, or the Women’s Center for Advancement.
Everyone’s case is unique and it is important for you to know your rights and the benefits for which you may be eligible. For example, while the new administration has promised to end the DACA program, all DACA-eligible youth will have been present in the U.S. for ten years on June 15, 2017, and many have been present longer. This is significant because certain individuals who have been present in the U.S. for ten years and who have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or child will be able to assert a “cancellation of removal” defense if placed in removal proceedings. Similarly, those afraid of being harmed in their home country because of a protected characteristic may have other defenses available, such as asylum or withholding of removal. Likewise, abused, abandoned, or neglected minors; victims of trafficking or other serious crimes; and certain individuals with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member may have additional options.
These defenses exist in laws enacted by Congress; and the new administration cannot disregard these laws. If it does, such actions can and will be challenged in the courts by legal advocacy organizations.
3. Prepare a safety plan:
If you have valid immigration documents, you should carry those with you. Likewise, be careful to obey traffic and other laws to minimize the risk of arrest. However, if you are arrested, remember your rights listed above and be sure to speak with an immigration attorney before pleading guilty to any crime. Additionally, you should prepare a safety plan in the event you are detained by ICE. At a minimum, we recommend that you:
- Memorize your A-number, and the phone number of a trusted emergency contact and your attorney (if you have one);
- Provide your child’s school with your emergency contact’s name and phone number, and authorize your emergency contact to pick up your child; and
- Keep your identity documents, evidence of physical presence in the U.S., financial information, and any immigration-related documents in a secure location where your emergency contact can access them.
4. Know that we are with you:
Lastly, while there is still a lot of uncertainly, one thing you should know for certain is that there are countless Americans–teachers, community organizers, business owners, faith leaders, lawyers, and others–-who are standing with you. Our message at Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska is that you are not alone. We are with you.
This article was written under the Justice For Our Neighbors – Nebraska name. On January 12, 2018, the organization changed its name to Immigrant Legal Center.