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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Guiding the way to a clearer path

Members of the undocumented immigrant community are worried that their right to an education and ability to stay in the United States will be in jeopardy due to recent executive orders by the Trump Administration.

To alleviate these fears, undocumented students, families and their allies had the opportunity to learn about their rights as members of the undocumented immigrant community in the “Know Your Rights” event in The Great Hall on May 10.

The event was organized by the Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) club. President and founder of the club Xochitl Medina said that the club hoped to create a safe place for undocumented Pierce students and their families to have their questions answered and to learn about the rights they have under the Trump Administration.

“I want to help the undocumented community,” Medina said. “After the election and everything that’s happening, I felt like we needed to do something on this campus to show that we support undocumented students here.”

Medina said the club started planning the event in January after she attended a similar event at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Speakers from the Miguel Contreras Foundation and the National Immigration Law Center gave presentations covering relevant subjects to the undocumented community and their allies, including information about special programs and advice on what to do during an encounter with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Director of Strategic Communications at the Miguel Contreras Foundation Mariana Villafaña informed the audience that they should take advantage of the resources they have available while they still can.

“We don’t know what the administration plans to do just yet,” Villafaña said. “But in the meantime, some things you can do are apply for Medi-Cal, attend legal fairs for free legal consultations, gather evidence, keep good records and stay involved.”

Villafaña also said that the foundation has a network of nonprofit attorneys who are able to help undocumented families.

Immigration attorney for the National Immigration Law Center Shiu-Ming Cheer said that every resident in the United States has rights, according to the Constitution.

“No matter who is president, everyone living in the U.S. has certain basic rights,” Cheer said. “It is important for everyone to protect our basic rights.”

The event was followed by an audience discussion in which participants were able to have their questions answered by Cheer and Villafaña. Audience members described hypothetical scenarios and asked what to do in those situations.

Cheer passed out “Know Your Rights” cards to the audience that she said can be given to police or ICE officers. The card states that whoever is holding it is exercising their right to remain silent and their right to refuse to answer anything before speaking to a lawyer.

“The problem is that these officials often act like they are above the law,” Cheer said. “And a lot of higher-ups are acting that way too, so ICE thinks it’s okay.”

Cheer also recommended to the audience that they do not sign any documents before discussing them with a lawyer.

Both Cheer and Villafaña said that staying involved with the community and informed on current events are both necessary for the law to move forward.

Villafaña said that events like these are not only helpful to undocumented students, but to the community as a whole.

“It’s important for folks of all races to get involved,” Villafaña said. “You have to know your rights collectively so you can assert the rights of others.”

Natalie Gutierrez, a sociology student at Pierce, went to the event to learn about how she can help those affected by immigration laws.

“I know some members of my family who these laws would impact,” Gutierrez said. “I think they provided really necessary and important information that can help a lot of people.”

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