A special kind of American civics lesson took place last Thursday evening in the Franklin Elementary School gym. Three immigration attorneys walked two dozen Santa Barbara residents through their constitutional rights as people living on United States soil, regardless of their citizenship status.
The attorneys talked about protections afforded to all of us by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments: our right to secure ourselves and our homes against unreasonable search and seizure, and our right to remain silent. They also explained what to do — and, more importantly, what not to do — if confronted by federal immigration agents.
Franklin Principal David Bautista provided Spanish translation. He said afterward that the fear of deportation among his students and their parents since the election is palpable. At least one family, convinced they’ll soon be torn apart, decided to move back to their home country.
These “Know Your Rights” workshops have existed in Santa Barbara for years, but after Donald Trump promised to deport two to three million immigrants upon taking office, they’ve become much more frequent. La Casa de la Raza and the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) also organizes them, and events are scheduled at UCSB and the Unitarian Society later this month. The idea is for attendees to take back what they learn to friends and family too nervous to attend public meetings.
“There’s so much misinformation on the street,” said attorney Arnold Jaffe. “My cousin said you can do this, my brother-in-law said you can do that. Ninety-nine percent of that information is not helpful and probably not true.” Lucas Zucker with CAUSE said nearly as dangerous as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are phony “notarios” posing as accredited attorneys and charging high sums for bad advice.
Jaffe handed out informational guides on Thursday along with Red Cards created by the San Francisco–based Immigrant Legal Resource Center. On one side is a reminder in Spanish of the rights of every person in the U.S. The other side is intended to be handed to ICE agents, with statements in English that explain the individual is exercising those rights. (A copy can be found on page 18 of this issue’s “Keep Santa Barbara Great Again” pullout guide.)
The advice, Jaffe explained to the crowd, is applicable in the event that ICE agents approach them on the street or at their home without a warrant. If they’re taken into custody, another set of rules applies. Regardless of the situation, Jaffe stated, “Don’t run, don’t lie, don’t sign anything, and don’t answer questions without a lawyer.” He provided a list of area attorneys and nonprofit legal organizations that specialize in immigration cases.
Here are additional lessons imparted by Jaffe, CAUSE, and other legal experts
to Santa Barbara’s immigrant community:
If ICE agents come to your home:
• Do not open the door, and do not allow the agents inside.
• Ask to be shown a search warrant—slid under the door—and make sure it has your correct name and address, and is signed by a judge.
• Hand agents your Red Card outside the house, or slip it under the door.
• Contact an attorney.
If ICE agents approach you on the street:
• Ask if you are being detained. If you are not, let the agents know you intend to leave.
If you are, exercise your right to remain silent.
• Do not answer any questions.
• Do not tell the agents where you were born.
• Do not sign any documents.
• Do not provide false documents.
If you are placed in deportation proceedings:
• You have the right to access a list of legal services.
• You have the right to be represented by a lawyer.
• Ask for an interpreter during your hearing.
• Ask to contact your consulate.
If you are a U.S. citizen:
• Carry your driver’s license, passport, or state ID with you at all times.
If you are legally permitted to be in the U.S.but are not a confirmed citizen:
• Carry your work permit or green card with you at all times.
If you are an undocumented immigrant:
• Do not carry any information that explains your legal status.
Create a file at home with important documents that can be accessed in the event of your deportation:
• The name of your attorney and your emergency contacts
• A caregiver’s affidavit naming individuals permitted to look after your children
• Instructions on how to care for sick or elderly family members
• Birth certificates, marriage licenses, financial records, etc.
More information can be accessed at ilrc.org or causenow.org.