In recent weeks, raids and deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are reportedly increasing across the country following President Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders.
Because of this, organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) are advising immigrant communities to understand how to prepare for and respond in the event ICE agents show up to their homes, workplaces or any public spaces.
At a press conference on Thursday, March 9, Advancing Justice-LA President and Executive Director Stewart Kwoh urged communities to be aware that the Trump administration’s crackdown will include many Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) undocumented immigrants, including Filipinos.
“A visa overstay is just as undocumented as crossing the border without papers — as long as an individual does not have current legal status, they are at serious risk of deportation, regardless of criminal history,” Kwoh said. “And of course, anyone with a criminal history is a main target of the new administration.”
Advancing Justice-LA is also advising immigrants — whether undocumented, green card holders, or refugees with criminal records — to be equipped with “know your rights” resources in the event they have an encounter with ICE. There are Constitutional rights in place to safeguard them, regardless of their statuses.
“Our community needs to know its rights so it can be protected as much as possible,” Kwoh added.
In Los Angeles County, where over 35 percent of the population is comprised of immigrants, there are an estimated 130,000 undocumented APIs. Nationally, that number is around 1.5 million.
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu noted that API undocumented immigrants are at higher risk of deportation now than any other previous administration.
However, LA has been challenging the administration’s orders through various ways. In December of last year, the $10 million LA Justice Fund was introduced to provide assistance to immigrants facing deportation proceedings without a lawyer. The LA Police Department (LAPD) has also vowed that it would continue upholding Special Order #40, which means that officers will not initiate investigations solely to determine a person’s immigration status.
Home, workplace raids
The raids that have happened in the past month were primarily targeted toward undocumented immigrants with outstanding deportation orders. However, in the process of searching for these individuals, other undocumented immigrants would be questioned, detained or arrested as well.
“The issue is that often people did not know their rights and would let ICE into their homes, which would result in what are known as ‘collateral arrests,’ where ICE would question, arrest and detain the individuals who were not the ones they were looking for,” Martha Ruch, an immigration attorney at Advancing Justice-LA, said.
Attorneys note that immigrants need to ask the ICE officials to identify themselves and for a search warrant if they show up to homes. If they do not have the said warrant with the individual’s name and address and a signature of a judge, they are not authorized to enter.
“It is better for the individual they are looking [to go outside], then to open the door and expose everyone in the home to questioning,” Ruch said, adding that individuals have the right to remain silent and are not bound to sign any documents unless a lawyer is present.
They should avoid carrying documents that contain information about their immigration statuses or countries of origin and should memorize important phone numbers and store all important documents that can be easily retrieved if they are detained.
“If you are stopped and are asked for those papers, let us know because we are going to challenge that,” Kwoh said. “This is not a society where those are required documents in the vast majority of daily life.”
Moreover, undocumented immigrants are advised to prepare in case ICE comes to their workplaces by creating “safety plans” with their families and co-workers.
“It is important to come to an agreement with your co-workers as to what the collective action would be and in particular, it would be ideal if you and your co-workers agree to remain silent and assert your right to consult your attorney before doing anything else in such a situation,” Advancing Justice-LA immigration attorney Christopher Lapinig said, adding that immigrants should ask if they are free to go and must remain calm and not run away.
He also advised that if people witness a raid, to take down the name, agency, or other identifying information of any law enforcement officer present.
Raids can be reported to the Los Angeles Raids Rapid Response Network hotline at (888) 624-4752 (English). For the Filipino community, Advancing Justice-LA has toll-free helplines at (855) 300-2552 for Tagalog or (888) 349-9695 for English.
Rumors of Filipino raids dispelled
Lapinig told the Asian Journal earlier this week that his organization has not heard of any Filipino deportation and raid cases so far. There had been rumors circulating that ICE had visited Filipino supermarkets but they were debunked, he said.
As previously reported by the Asian Journal in February, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles said it would not expose the statuses of undocumented immigrants if they ask for assistance.
“Some of our fellow nationals feel that the Consulate actually turns in undocumented immigrants; we would like to dispel those rumors,” Consul General Adelio Cruz affirmed. “We are here to help everyone who comes by our office. We do not ask people if they are documented or undocumented; we are here to provide any assistance we can.”
The fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a signature program by former President Barack Obama has spared over 750,000 undocumented youth from deportation — remains unknown under Trump. For now, organizations like Advancing Justice-LA are will continue processing renewal applications. However, they will not file new applications due to the uncertainty of the program and they are unsure how United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will handle the information.
Immigrants with any kind of criminal records are advised to seek legal assistance before applying for any immigration programs.
Advancing Justice-LA holds free citizenship clinics every Friday and the fourth Saturday of the month. It is also urging all green card holders who may qualify for U.S. citizenship to consider applying as soon as possible.
Despite the rampant ICE activities, speakers at Thursday’s event said immigrant communities should not live in fear.
“This is your country, this is my country. So, we are all afforded the same rights being in this country as anybody else, regardless of immigration status. Therefore, while yes, don’t break the law…we don’t want anyone to be fearful, carrying around their green card or scared to drive in fear of getting a speeding ticket that they feel will lead to deportation,” Ryu said, adding “do not let [this] hinder your lives.”