Immigration advice given in city council study session

*This was published on page 4 of the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of EPA Today.*

Following the reports of hundreds of undocumented immigrants being detained and deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) across the country, the East Palo Alto council hosted a study session on immigration for the public on February 15, 2017.

Captain Paul R. Kunkel of the San Mateo County Sherriff’s office provided information in regards to arrest and jailing policies and procedures.

Both Kunkel and East Palo Alto’s Police Chief, Albert Pardini, made it clear that residents should not be afraid to continue to reach out to law enforcement if they need assistance with any crime. Kunkel said, “We want to help you. We want to serve the public.”

In terms of an individual’s immigration status, he said, “We don’t care.”

In his presentation, Kunkel explained that when an individual gets arrested, the fingerprints that are taken, go into a nationwide database that can be accessed by the federal government. He made it very clear that if the inmate is undocumented, a reported felon or wanted for a variety of crimes, then ICE can see those reports and request further information on the individual. Kunkel said that ICE will most likely ask the county for the inmate’s release date, This date is public information and anyone can ask for it. Under California’s Truth Act, the inmate will be notified of ICE’s inquiry.

The Truth Act was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016 and went into effect on January 1, 2017. It requires local law enforcement to notify inmates and their attorneys, in writing whenever ICE has made an inquiry about them. If no attorney is listed on record, a third party (such as a family member) can be notified, at the inmate’s direction.

Additionally, the Truth Act also requires that the inmate be given a consent form to sign if ICE requests an interview. The form is given in the inmate’s preferred language. “ICE can no longer wander into the jail and just talk to people,” Kunkel said. He went on to state that if an agent from ICE comes into the jail, then the date, time, and reason for the visit is recorded.

Kunkel also explained that if ICE has requested a release date, the County of San Mateo will not hold an inmate nor delay their release date. If ICE is present at the time of an inmate’s release, however, the inmate will be handed over; if ICE is not present, “off you go,” said Kunkel.

Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), a nonprofit based in San Francisco, added, “You have the right to remain silent.” She said, “It is extremely important to assert that right.”

In her presentation, Ruiz confirmed that we’ve seen a huge spike in deportation in the past few years. “There have been more deportations under the Obama administration than [under] any other administration combined,” she stated.

According to Ruiz, the current immigration executive order by Trump, if put into effect, will probably exceed those numbers by casting an even wider net,. The executive order is “going after anybody who’s had a conviction, anyone who has been charged, or anyone who has conceivably committed an offense, period,” Ruiz explained. “If you jaywalked this morning—according to the executive order—that can conceivably be enough,” she said. I don’t say this to scare people because we have to wait to see what this looks like on the ground.”

Despite these statements, Ruiz and Victoria Tonoco, a lawyer at the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), advised people to try to remain calm. “We are hearing the term ‘raid’ being tossed left and right,” Ruiz said. “A lot of these stories are not verified and there haven’t been any verified raids in Northern California,” she added.

If anyone is detained by ICE, under the current “broken system,” Ruiz cautioned that they should never sign anything that they do not understand. Ruiz emphasized the importance of this warning to Spanish-speakers, especially, because, the detained person, she explained, could potentially be signing a deportation order.

Ruiz added that once a person has been detained, they have a right to an attorney, but, she stressed, not at the government’s expense…. Nationally, about 84% of detained people are totally unrepresented. In many cases, during detainment, people are not offered bond, are transferred to other states, do not receive a public defender, and are involved in a case that can take months or even years to move forward.

The State of California’s response to these proceedings has been to introduce bills such as SB-6 Due Process for All, which is an effort to provide state funds for people to have attorneys during removal proceedings. Another bill is AB-3 Padilla Support, which is “an effort to provide funds to public defender offices to adequately advise our clients as they’re required to under the constitution in regards to the immigration consequences of criminal offenses,” explained Ruiz.

Tinoco reminded everyone that if someone does have a question, then they should “not go to people who you think may know because they’re not credible, reliable sources.” Instead, she said, “You need to have that information come from an attorney.”

CLSEPA is available for free walk-in immigration consultations Monday through Friday, 9am – 1pm. If an attorney is not available that day, then people can leave their questions with the receptionist, who will pass them along to the attorney. CLSEPAis located at 1861 Bay Road in East Palo Alto and can be reached by phone at 650-326-6440 or email info@clsepa.org

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