Experts Offer Chinese Community Tips on Facing ICE

The Chinese American Social Services Center held an immigration seminar in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

The main targets for deportation remain immigrants who have had interactions with the legal system, even during the Trump era. Still, immigrants need to know their rights, plan ahead and keep a cool mind in order to protect themselves from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. This was the takeaway experts offered to immigrants at a workshop held jointly by the Chinese American Social Services Center, the New York Legal Assistance Group and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on July 13.

Lizeth Castillo, an attorney from the New York Legal Assistance Group, said President Trump’s focus for deportation are those who were involved in criminal cases before, were convicted, have deportation orders against them, were involved in immigration fraud or are considered a threat to national security and public safety.

Castillo suggested that immigrants who have a high risk of being deported make a plan B with family members to prepare for what to do if they are deported so that their lives won’t completely descend into chaos. In addition, they should stay away from [interacting with] United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and not try to adjust their immigration status or renew their green cards without consulting a lawyer. And, they should also avoid contacting criminal law enforcement entities.

Castillo said ICE officers often make arrest plans that specifically target individuals as a priority for deportation. Then they’ll go to residential places, courts, shelters and even workplaces to look for these individuals. Some arrests happen simply on the street.

“ICE officers may call out your name loudly in a public place. Then (when you respond) they’ll confirm the name with you,” said Castillo. “But before you tell them your name, you should ask whether you may leave the scene. If they say yes, just say you don’t want to answer the question and leave. If they say no, just say you would like to invoke your right to remain silent and then ask to talk to your lawyer.” Castillo reminded immigrants that they can refuse to be searched, but they should not lie, run away or show immigration officers fake documents.

Castillo also said ICE officers sometimes pretend they are police officers and come to talk to you about identity theft or other cases when they visit your home. Immigrants have to be alert and prudent. Immigrants should ask the officers which government agency they belong to, make it clear that they don’t want [to engage in] the conversation, and ask the officers whether they have a search warrant issued by a court. If the answer is yes, ask the officers to slide the document in under the door. If the answer is no, just ask them to leave.

If ICE officers are already in your apartment but they don’t have a search warrant, you can still ask them to leave and stop them from searching your rooms and personal belongings. If the officers are ready to make an arrest, you can ask them not to on the basis of health problems or the presence of children and the elderly. If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and to talk to your lawyer. You can refuse to provide any documents or information or to sign any documents. But still, do not lie. Lying could affect the outcome of your case in the future.

Carlene Pierre, [immigrant services] coordinator at MOIA, said the office provides free and safe legal assistance to immigrants. Those in need can call the hotline of ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 during workdays to seek help.

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