Power, Not Panic: What To Do If You See ICE

The Trump administration is making no secret of its intention to persecute California’s undocumented immigrants. Despite recent legislation barring authorities from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the state, rumblings from D.C. coupled with recent egregious acts of overreach by ICE in California make it clear that these agents present a growing threat to our communities. Whether we’re immigrants, allies, or community members who care, we need to prepare ourselves to respond to raids and checkpoints wherever we find them. Below is a list of resources and training that you can use to be as ready as possible to hold ICE to account in our state.

How to Respond to ICE

Remember these key words: Power, not panic. Those words will help you find the website of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, which has a treasure trove of info on protecting yourself and your community against ICE and fighting misinformation.

Keep in mind:

  • First and foremost: Know your rights. Know whether or not you are safe from ICE, and to what extent your immigration status, if any, would be impacted by an arrest.
  • Learn about ICE and how it operates.
  • If you see ICE on the street, take steps to confirm with others that you saw them. Spreading panic helps no one, and could traumatize children and families already living in fear.
    • Once ICE presence is confirmed, call your local Rapid Response network hotline. Use the hotlines only to report ICE activity and enforcement actions; website links are also given to make informational inquiries.
    • Document what you see ICE doing. We recommend downloading the ACLU’s free Mobile Justice – CA app, which automatically uploads video  from your smartphone to the ACLU Northern California office. This keeps the footage safe if enforcement officials try to delete it or confiscate your phone.
  • If ICE comes to your homeyou don’t have to let them in unless they show you a warrant. They will sometimes wave bits of paper that aren’t warrants around and say that they are warrants; they can and will bend the law to gain entrance to your home.
    • If you are arrested, remain silent, and ask to speak to a lawyer.
    • The ACLU has precise instructions on how to handle an ICE raid on your home in Spanish and in English.

Want to help? Volunteer or otherwise support your local Rapid Response Network:

Graphic © California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance 

Liberty and Justice For All

“Liberty and Justice for All” – these are words we don’t always associate with this administration’s immigration policy. But Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi informed and inspired a large crowd in El Sobrante on January 27 about “Immigration Realities” and the new, innovative Stand Together CoCo immigrant rapid-response program. Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond hosted the talk, which was attended by local political leaders, community members, and representatives of progressive groups including Indivisible East Bay and CA-11 Team United.

Saidi outlined Stand Together CoCo, which will officially begin on March 1 and will provide wide-ranging education and support services and some legal consultation and services. Among these services:

  • Paid community responders will staff a 24/7 hotline to verify and provide accurate information about immigration-related activities reported in the community.
  • Team members will be dispatched when necessary to respond to reports of ICE raids.
  • Legal observers will document and collect data.
  • Community Supporters will provide immediate support to families and individuals who have been targeted or detained.
  • When possible, lawyers will meet with detainees (at present, there is funding for only three lawyers).

The program will also hold education and support events all over the county, including Know Your Rights, legal consultation and services, workshops for people detained in the West County Detention Facility, clinical consultations, and training for trainers/leadership development.

The audience was eager to hear how it could help, and Saidi provided a Volunteer Interest Form with a variety of ways community members can step up to support  immigrant neighbors and friends. The volunteer program, which is being administered primarily by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, is looking for people interested in conducting Know Your Rights presentations or helping with outreach to spread the word about immigrant rights and the hotline; presenters to assist at community meetings; supporters who can accompany people to ICE appointments or help them find resources; and more.

If you want to volunteer to help, please fill out the online volunteer application. Have questions? You can email Joseline Gonzalez Soriano, Stand Together CoCo’s Interim Coordinator, for information. More info will be posted soon on the Catholic Charities’ website.

You can also help by spreading the word about Stand Together CoCo and other rapid response networks. See this list of networks in California to report ICE activity and enforcement. To report ICE action in Contra Costa before March 1, contact Alameda County’s rapid response program, ACILEP, at 510-241-4011.  

Saidi, whose family moved from Tehran, Iran, to Los Angeles when he was five years old, recalled that he didn’t really understand the Pledge of Allegiance when he said it in school for the first time, but he liked the sound of the final words: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Saidi encouraged the audience to work for “liberty and justice for all,” and emphasized that the words are not a description of what America is but of what it might be – and that “pledge” means committing to putting in the work to reach the goal. We at Indivisible East Bay could not agree more.

Photograph of Ali Saidi by Judy Weatherly,  Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond 
Judith Tannenbaum contributed to this article. Judith is a writer and teacher. Her books include Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.

Stand Together Contra Costa

On September 19, 2017, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the development of Stand Together CoCo, a county-wide immigrant rapid-response program. The innovative pilot, designed to operate from January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020, will provide community education and support services for immigrants in Contra Costa, as well as no-cost defense services for low-income county residents at risk of deportation.  The program, proposed by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and fast-tracked by the Board of Supervisors, will be managed by the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office.

On January 27 at 2 PM at Hope Lutheran Church in El Sobrante, Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi will speak about the new rapid response program, including how we can get involved and volunteer. Saidi will also give an overview of local and national immigration realities, including an update on the implementation of SB 54, California’s Sanctuary State bill.

Saidi’s presentation, “Stand Together CoCo & Immigration Realities,” is hosted by Courageous Resistance/Indivisible El Sobrante/Richmond. The event is free, and all are welcome to attend, and to stay after Saidi’s presentation for the host group’s general meeting. Click here to RSVP (not required). Email Courageous Resistance if you have questions.

 

Abuses Alleged at Richmond ICE Facility

No access to bathrooms, only to plastic bags. Hours-long lockdowns. Federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility have documented these and other complaints in a September letter signed by 27 inmates to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

Complaint filed by immigration detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff – whose office has a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE to operate the immigration detention center – is investigating the allegations of mistreatment raised by the detainees.

The allegations were publicly revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, and the newspaper has further investigated the story:

You can also read detainees’ demands to improve conditions at the West County Detention Facility, released by the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The reports have raised concerns among state elected officials. Reportedly, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has scheduled a tour of the jail on November 27, and State Senator Nancy Skinner has urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter to probe conditions at the jail.

What you can do:

Please call your elected officials and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. As the SF Chronicle has reported, immigration detainees at the ICE facility at West County Detention Center in Richmond are alleging abuse and mistreatment. Please move quickly to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to insure that their rights are upheld and that conditions do not put their health at risk.

Call State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and ask him to investigate, as Sen. Nancy Skinner has reportedly asked him to do. Public Inquiry Unit: (916) 210-6276 or (800) 952-5225

Other ways to help:

  • Nancy Burke, of Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante & Richmond, is organizing a meeting with the sheriff who runs the West County Detention Center to bring the community’s concerns to her attention. The meeting will focus on 10 points of concern about conditions at the facility. Please contact Nancy by email or phone: (510) 932-9267 if you have questions or you’re interested in attending the meeting.
  • Save the date to help support CIVIC (the group to whom the detainees sent the letter) in their work to end the isolation of West County immigration detainees. Artists for Humanity invites all to an afternoon of music, poetry, and dance, January 28, 2018, 2:30 to 5:00 PM at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. The benefit concert (asking for a sliding scale donation) will create a revolving bail fund to be used by West County detainees to reunite with their families and gain legal representation. Email for more information.

Don’t take them from their homes

This cold-hearted administration has been unfailingly cruel to the immigrant families who bestow their work, their hard-earned money, their very lives upon this country they’ve chosen to be their home. But nothing, not the refugee and Muslim ban; not the ICE raids detaining and deporting thousands, leaving millions behind to live in fear—skip school, doctor’s appointments, court dates; not the discretionary deportation of a cancer nurse with four children. Nothing comes close to the absolute viciousness of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We all know the story: brought here as children, grow up in our communities, stand poised to achieve and contribute so much more. Our country promised to protect them and instead the GOP is threatening to toss them out like garbage.

Our representatives in Washington are doing what they can to pass the DREAM Act and take away the president’s terrifying power over these young people’s lives. But that’s not enough. We also have to act locally to keep these Californians—some of the best and brightest—here at home. The state legislature must pass a robust version of the California Values Act (SB 54). ICE may not coordinate with any state or local agency. Please find your assembly person and ask that they not buckle under pressure from the California State Sheriffs’ association, but instead support a strong SB 54.

Resisting Attacks on Human and Immigrant Rights Under the T**** Agenda

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.

Panelists at Rep DeSaulnier's Immigration Town Hall

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.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

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.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

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.

You can also donate to or volunteer with Centro Legal De La Raza, one of the primary groups behind the ACILEP hotline and network.

By Heidi Rand