Diaspora News

Precarious times for immigrants in US

Three female protesters stand at the stairs of the Los Angeles City Hall to protest Donald Trump election as president of the United States of America. Photo © Abner Galino

THE time has become more precarious for immigrants, legal or undocumented, in the United States of America.

This is according to immigration lawyers and advocates who participated in a national press call hosted by New America Media and Ready California on Wednesday (February 8).

Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), advised undocumented immigrants under detention not to sign any document that they don’t understand; to invoke their rights to remain silent when necessary; and to ask for legal representations.

Kinoshita stressed that authorities needed to show warrants or lawful orders from courts to get inside residences of people.

“So if they were not breaking your door, there is no reason for you to open your door to them,” Kinoshita said.

Esther Sung, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), said she was a member of the legal team that successfully worked for the release of two Iraqis held at the Kennedy airport as a consequence of a travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump on seven Muslim-majority countries.

Sung said despite the continuing hostilities against immigrant communities, there were indications that it is backfiring on the aggressors as manifested by an unprecedented number of amicus briefs (document that is filed in a court by someone who is not directly related to the case under consideration) that have been filed in court arguing against Trump’s executive orders.

“Many of them came from the tech industry,” Sung disclosed, which she said, “only shows that the importance of immigrants in both the local and national economy.”

The lawyers said Trump’s immigration enforcement order would affect immigrants who were convicted of any criminal offense, regardless of what the offense was, when it occurred, or the circumstances of the conviction; those who haven’t even been convicted of a crime, but have been charged with one; those who have broken a law, with no charges or convictions resulting from it; and those with final administrative deportation orders.

It appears that the executive order does not make so much allowance or provide considerations for immigrants to be allowed to stay — not their length of time in the United States, whether they are married to a US citizen or have children who are citizens, or the content of their character and the contributions they have been making to their communities and the society, in general.

Meanwhile, the third member of the panel Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), reported that as development unfold, state legislators are stepping up and are doing everything they can to protect immigrants.

Ruiz cited Senate Bill 54 that seeks to prohibit state and local law enforcement from using their resources to investigate, arrest or detain suspects for immigration enforcement purposes.

The immigrant rights advocate lamented that the the current system does not provide public defenders in immigration cases. Ruiz said such a situation is unfortunate as she pointed out that about “82% of cases represented by lawyers were won while 24% were lost due to absence of legal representation.”

Currently, Senate Bill 6 is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure seeks to establish legal aid for immigrants and has an urgency provision to take effect immediately.

Another proposal, Senate Bill 31, seeks to forbid state and local agencies from providing personally identifiable information about an individual’s religious beliefs to the federal government.

The press call was moderated by Odette Keeley, NAM’s national media network director.



Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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