Community activists try to head off immigration arrests

In recent years, as long as an undocumented immigrant stayed out of trouble with the law, he or she could generally rest easy without wondering if an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent was behind every knock on the door.

That’s all changed — ICE is currently sweeping through immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Memphis, looking for those who are either undocumented or whose documents have expired. Their targets are no longer just those immigrants who have a criminal history or ties to a gang — although those people are also on the list. Instead, ICE is also aiming for families and adults who came to the country as unaccompanied children. Many of those adults who arrived here as unaccompanied children were the only survivors of their family’s desperate bid to make it to the United States and a better life and have little or no memory of their country of origin.

Local police and the county sheriffs are not assisting in the arrests — but they have no power to stop them either. This can make it difficult for an undocumented immigrant to even call on the police for help, since there’s a possibility that an ICE agent will follow along. For example, an immigrant who called 911 seeking police assistance ended up being arrested by ICE agents who also responded to the scene.

Activists are trying hard to reach immigrants with pamphlets, flyers and cards that help them understand their civil rights — which apply to anyone in this country, regardless of their immigration status.

If you or any of your family members could be targeted by ICE, try to obtain a card for your pocket or wallet that you can use to make these statements for you. In the meantime, commit the following to memory:

  • You have the right to remain silent and you are exercising that right immediately.
  • You wish to speak to an attorney and know that you have the right to do so.
  • You will not sign any document without the advice of your attorney.

Keep repeating that information as necessary until the ICE agents understand that you won’t be bullied into doing what they want. As soon as possible, contact an attorney who handles civil rights issues for immigrants. The sooner you act the better — time is definitely your enemy in this situation.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, “Activists race federal agents as ‘surge’ in immigration arrests continues,” Ryan Poe, July 25, 2017


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