Even with stiff competition from the Warriors’ game, a roomful of community members showed up to Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s June 1st Immigration Town Hall and Resource Fair in Richmond.
Opening by emphasizing immigrants’ vital value to California’s dynamic economy, DeSaulnier quickly gave the floor to a panel of local experts who each made a short presentation and then fielded audience questions on critical federal and local immigration issues.
Richmond Police Lieutenant Tim Simmons (far right) spoke as the city’s Northern District Area Commander, and read a message from Chief Allwyn Brown. Both emphasized community-based policing, and Brown reaffirmed that the current climate of fear would not slow the RPD’s progress in working with the community. The crowd applauded Brown’s statement that the RPD does not enforce federal immigration law. Brown noted that doing so would harm community trust, and acknowledged that the substantial undocumented population tends to be targeted and victimized, making a community/police partnership essential.
Catholic Charities of the East Bay legal services program manager Maciel Jacques (next to Lt. Simmons) highlighted the extensive services CCEB provides, from education and resources on immigrant rights to legal services for documented and undocumented immigrants. CCEB’s presentations and literature teaching people about their rights are vital in these times. Help support Catholic Charities’ crucial work on behalf of immigrant and human rights by donating or volunteering.
Private immigration attorney Maria Rivera, based in San Pablo, affirmed that fear of enforcement is real; deportations have doubled in the past 3-4 months over last year. She stressed the need for families to plan for emergencies – from knowing their rights and seeking legal representation to having a plan in case of detention, especially arranging for guardians for children. Warning that everyone without documentation is a target, Rivera strongly recommended consulting an immigration lawyer to address your personal situation, including to identify whether there’s a path to citizenship and to deal with any prior convictions.
Rivera’s valuable concrete advice: Know your rights if you’re stopped by ICE on the street or if they come to your house. If you’re detained, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING and don’t believe what ICE says. DO ask to see an Immigration Judge.
Both Jacques and Rivera noted worsening conditions under the Trump administration, saying that even where official policies haven’t changed, they’ve observed emboldened Customs and Border Protection agents, increased scrutiny of immigration applications, and reluctance to approve benefits. There are also much greater delays in consular processing and by the Department of State.
César Manuel Zulaica Piñeyro, from the Mexican consulate in San Francisco, works with the Mexican immigrant community and checks twice weekly for Mexican citizens in ICE detention facilities. He noted increased demand for help getting Mexican citizenship for US-born children and transferring assets to Mexico. Zulaica Piñeyro clarified that for a temporary guardianship to apply in the United States it has to be done in the US, not Mexico.
Regarding ICE detention, detainees only have the right to legal representation at their own expense, and 80% of immigration detainees are unrepresented, which greatly increases their chances of being deported. Zulaica Piñeyro said that detained Mexicans have the right to notify the consulate, which would contact their family.
Lt. Simmons said there have been no ICE raids in Richmond, although ICE continues to conduct its usual enforcement. Rivera and Jacques mentioned that a rapid response network is being developed in Contra Costa County to quickly deploy observers and/or lawyers for people facing imminent deportation and other problems from immigration enforcement. They referred to the ACILEP network (Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership) already in place for Alameda Co., and its ICE activity hotline at (510) 241-4011.
By Heidi Rand