In the wake of burgeoning anti-immigration legislation issued by President Trump and his cabinet, the Office for Equity and Inclusion hosted a DACA/Immigration Workshop in Exley on Friday, Feb. 17. Both students and local residents attended the workshop, which was led by Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and three local immigration experts.
Secretary for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Meghann LaFountain opened the workshop with a brief overview of expected changes to immigration policies created by former President Barack Obama, in particular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Issued in 2012, DACA grants certain undocumented immigrants a two-year period of deferred action on deportation and eligibility for a work permit. In order to receive coverage under DACA, immigrants must prove that they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. In addition, they must have entered the United States before reaching the age of 16 and before June of 2007. Finally, immigrants must be a student, high school graduate, or a honorably discharged veteran, and not have been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanors. As of June 2016, more than 728,000 immigrants were covered under DACA.
“We have heard some fairly credible rumors–it’s impossible that we can predict with any certainty what will happen–that [Trump] plans to eliminate DACA,” LaFountain said.
While she assured, albeit only with relative certainty, that current recipients of deferred action should be safe from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), LaFountain expressed concern about the future for immigrants once their DACA status expires.
LaFountain also discussed changes in the processing of undocumented immigrants. Before Trump took office, immigrants could be released on bond or parole instead of detained.
“The new executive order, however, says that Trump wants provisions to be put in place to prevent people from being released from the detention facilities until their case is actually heard, or until they are deported,” LaFountain said.
In order to avoid detention, Joanne Lewis of Connecticut Legal Services argued that it is imperative for immigrants to know their rights. As she explained, even though undocumented immigrants are not citizens, they are afforded the right to demand a warrant before letting the police enter their home, as well as basic Miranda rights, with one caveat.
“You have the right to an attorney,” explained Lewis. “Unfortunately, you have a right to an attorney that you pay for. There are no government attorneys for immigration cases….That’s because despite a lot of rhetoric, it’s not a criminal offense to be in the United States without status.”
Lewis explained that if one cannot afford an attorney, they should take simple measures to avoid ICE. This can include being careful with alcohol in order to avoid getting arrested for a DUI, using only authentic documents, and ending family arguments peacefully so that police are not called (except in the case of domestic violence).
If ICE shows up at their home, Lewis advised immigrants to have a witness present, preferably one that can speak English and read any warrants ICE may possess. Lewis also warned people not to sign anything unless they fully understand and agree with it.
Concerning immigration officers on campus, Farias explained that ICE agents are not allowed on any private property owned by the University. Farias noted that the best way to make sure one is on private property is to enter a building.
Lucas Codognolla, a member of Connecticut Students for a Dream, ended the workshop by outlining general precautions for all non-permanent residents: Always carry proof of legal status, give authorization for care of any children you may have, carry the name and number of an attorney and a legal resident who can assist you, and never disclose more information than necessary.