With increased enforcement of immigration law in the United States of America, immigrants – both documented and undocumented are understandably concerned about themselves and their families. Though there has not been any change in law yet, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ramped up arrest and detention of immigrants at a much higher rate. Reportedly, there is also a spike in anti-immigrant sentiment in some communities across the country. To reduce the adverse impact caused by this action, Diaspora Lawyers, The Transatlantic Law Firm, PLLC developed a Family Immigration Safety Plan. It is a short manual with practical tips in the event one is impacted. Getting abruptly arrested and detained by ICE can cause hardship to family and friends.
For one, every immigrant should know and exercise their rights. Everyone in the U.S. -both documented and undocumented persons – have rights. Knowing what these are may prevent abuse, detention or deportation. These are summarized in our business-card size Know Your Rights Card. For example, If ICE comes to your door, DO NOT OPEN WITHOUT A SIGNED WARRANT. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to speak with ICE or any police officer. Do not answer questions about your immigration status, where you were born and how you came to the U.S. Politely ask to remain silent. If stopped in a public place, remain calm and DO NOT RUN away. Stay poised and calmly exercise your rights. Hand them your Rights Card and say nothing more. You have the right to speak to an immigration attorney of your choice and at your cost. Ask for an opportunity to speak to the attorney.
Other key pillars of the Safety Plan include: emergency contact information, financial safety, child care and healthcare. Prepare emergency forms containing important and confidential information. Keep emergency telephone numbers, work numbers, medical information, childcare, immigration attorney contacts, relative or trusted friend contacts in one place. Let a trusted person know where these are kept of quick access. Designate a trusted person or firm to handle your finances both in the short term and long term in the event you are deported. Have a Special Power of Attorney covering bank accounts, house, car, or investments.
Have a trusted adult who will care for children if you cannot. Make sure the children know their contact information as well as school information. If you take prescription medication regularly, carry the prescription information with you. Include the doctor’s contacts and reason for the prescription. If you are ill or have a medical condition, tell ICE and request medical attention right away.
Finally, understand your immigration options and protect against fraud. There may be people seeking to gain from the desperation and anxiety by pretending to help for money. Only a licensed attorney or accredited representative is authorized to represent you. Avoid anyone who refuses to give you a signed contract; charges for blank immigration forms; promises a good outcome because of their “special connection” or contacts at USCIS and asks you to lie on a form or sign a blank document. Fraudsters are just as dangerous.
The bottom-line is: Trump-era immigration landscape brings new challenges. It is imperative that families take proactive steps in response. Our firm’s Immigration Family Safety Plan is a good first step. For individual assistance, contact an experienced immigration attorney.