Pinch yourself all you’d like, but this is our world: Twitter diplomacy, an echo chamber of alternative facts and, not last or least, fresh confusion about immigration. Based on a recent scan of this magazine’s demographics, it’s fair to assume most of our readers will not be personally affected by new immigration laws—which is to say, a healthy percentage of homeowners east of the canal, and those who summer here, have no fears of deportation. So what do we do? We reached out to Christopher Worth, an immigration lawyer based in East Quogue, who enthusiastically put us on firm footing for this discussion.
First, Worth recommends encouraging anyone of uncertain status to get an immigration consultation, which is basically a comprehensive evaluation by an immigration lawyer—or a reputable non-profit—who gathers information and provides analysis regarding options. This would also be an excellent opportunity to line up representation. In the event one is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it becomes incredibly difficult to find representation after the fact. Just as important, Worth recommends that we advocate that local leaders don’t support the broadening effort to destroy families by mass deportation. More on that below.
Worth pointed out that the Obama administration had priorities for removal. The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) required individuals to meet specific requirements before becoming a target for deportation. These included, among others, being a national security threat, a gang member, being convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors, or a single DWI. With the hardline executive order of January 25, just about anyone becomes a priority. The new list includes anyone who has not only committed a crime, but anyone charged with a crime, whether the case has been resolved or not; anyone who has abused public benefits; and anyone deemed by an immigration officer to “pose a risk to public safety and national security.” The executive order also seeks to empower state and local law enforcement agencies “to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck explained why his department will not act as immigration officers. He explains how such policies lead to non-cooperation from an entire community who will not cooperate with police for fear of deportation, while simultaneously being victimized by people who know they won’t report crimes for that very reason. In short, it makes communities significantly less safe. No word yet how local police forces will respond.
In the unfortunate event that someone is detained, Worth says, always make sure to carry documentation to prove legal status, including a green card, a certificate of naturalization and/or identification issued by the state, such a driver’s license. Worth emphases one should never carry false papers. Anyone here without legal status should avoid carrying their cedula, or other documentation from one’s country of origin as it could be used as proof of illegal status. Always carry the name and number of an immigration advocate, lawyer or agency who can provide help in case one is detained. Worth advises his clients “not to run from police or resist in any way” and reminds them they have the right to remain silent “and exercising that right is of particular importance when facing questions about country of origin and manner of entry to the U.S.”
Moreover, Worth suggests carrying evidence that a person has lived in the U.S. for at least two years. This could include rent receipts, a gym membership or medical records. The Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996 allows authorities to remove—on an expedited basis—unauthorized non-citizen entrants who cannot prove to the satisfaction of an immigration officer have that they have lived in the U.S. continuously for the past two years. This means, Worth says, “that the person is deported without a hearing and possibly before being able to retain legal counsel.” The only way to halt expedited removal is if a person has a legitimate fear of returning to their country and they express that to the officer. Historically, this has been restricted to people seeking admission and those who have been in the country less than 14 days, but we now find ourselves in uncharted territory.
It’s important that every person, no matter their legal status, know their rights. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees “against unreasonable search and seizure.” Worth notes, however, “the law is nuanced in this area. In general a warrant signed by a judge is needed for police or ICE to enter a person’s home. In the immigration context, one exception to that rule is when the occupant opens the door after a knock by ICE. The government may argue that they were given consent for the search. ICE has a history of executing warrantless searches of homes and businesses, and a warrantless search or seizure will typically not invalidate deportation proceeding. The individual or family will still be detained and have to contest their deportation despite the violation of their rights. Individuals facing an ICE officer should state clearly that the officer does not have consent to search their person, their vehicle or their home, as appropriate.”
Worth also emphasizes the most vulnerable are also the most at risk as a result of a deportation raid: children. “In the past, ICE raids have resulted in children stranded at daycares or schools with no one to pick them up, or being handed over to ill-equipped family members,” he says, adding that in addition to preparing a deportation defense now, “the most important thing families must do immediately is to find a family member or trusted friend who has some valid legal status in the United States, and execute a power of attorney in favor of that person so that they can immediately take custody of the child or children in the event of a sudden arrest of the parent.”
Finally, he recommends individuals learn their “A number” or alien number “and relay that to their family so their representative or attorney will be able to find out where they are being detained, and communicate with their deportation officer.”
Contact Worth Immigration in East Quogue at worthimmigration.com or at 631-676-4999.