Nathan Acuña

Would you know your rights or the rights of those around you in the event of a sudden immigration detention? 

To kick off Social Justice Coalition (SJC)’s first Social Justice week, External Chair Eryn Wells and the Office of Equity and Inclusion Director Jenny Guerraheld a “Know Your Rights” forum. The forum brought immigration attorney Juliana Garcia to Villalobos Hall on Tuesday, April 18 to discuss an individual’s rights in regards to immigration detention. Garcia spoke about the current state of immigration law under the new federal administration after changes put in place by last January’s Executive Order, which increased deportation enforcement and detainment. 

 “There’s a huge amount of panic and anxiety after the election because some of the rhetoric relating to immigrants and there being a deportation force and folks being deported,” said Garcia. “A lot of people don’t understand that everyone in the United States, whether you’re a citizen or not, has basic rights, we have due process.”

Due process, Garcia explained, means that any individual has the legal right see and present a case before a judge, regardless of immigration status. “You have procedural rights, and it’s important that people know how to assert those rights,” Garcia said. However,  this process is limited to those who do not have a previous deportation order.

Along with the assertion of procedural rights, Garcia believes everyone should have a plan, understand what happens in the case of immigration detention, and how to respond in the moment.

“Remain calm, make sure not to sign anything with the immigration officers,” said Garcia. “What I tell people is to immediately contact your family because there’s nothing that the detainee is going to be able to do inside of the detention.”

Regardless of documentation status, everyone has fourth amendment rights. In the case of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials coming to one’s homes —“silent raid” deportation plan popularized under both the Trump and Obama administrations — Garcia says to not open the door and to ask to see a signed warrant that specifies the arrest. If no warrant is presented, individuals have the right to stay silent and peacefully walk away. 

“Theoretically, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, that’s the way we’re supposed to assert our fourth amendment rights,” Garcia said, who also acknowledged the reality of law enforcement’s negative interactions with people of color popularized in recent news media.

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country, with a backlog ofa half a million immigrants residing within the city even before the the new presidency. Typical cases in L.A. take two-to-three years, according to Garcia.

Prompted by a question from Guerra, Garcia made sure to address how immigration law has or has not changed to students under Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA). She commented that DACA students should feel safe travelling, going to conferences or studying abroad for the foreseeable future. Garcia explained that DACA students should not be afraid to study abroad according to test cases in L.A., honoring advance paroles. These advance paroles are travel documents DACA students are required to have, which can be approved for academic reasons.

At ASWC Senate, Wells read the most recent version of the Student Bill of Rights, a document commonly adapted to many college campuses which reaffirms and specifies rights that every student should be aware they have. The bill will be signed by the next ASWC President Leah Boynton, as well as multiple Deans and Faculty officials across campus before going into effect next year.

The week continued yesterday with an Economic/Environmental Justice event in the OEI, where students were invited to learn how to make their own reusable bags. This isparticularly handy after the passing of California Proposition 67 banning the sale of single-use plastic bags at checkout of most stores. 

Another event includes a talk and lunch with Campus Safety officers, revolving around the theme of Restorative Justice will begin tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. in Dezember House. Here SJC will provide the space for students to ask questions of the officers in order for them to better understand their rights and responsibilities as students.