Immigrant advocates working to educate amid threats of ICE action

07/18/2019

Community organizers in West Marin are on the ready in case of ICE activity coinciding with President Trump’s announcement of nationwide sweeps. “There is a lot of fear within the community,” said Jorge Martinez, a program assistant for West Marin Community Services. “We’ve only had rumors [in the past], but they had a really negative impact on the community. Parents were afraid to pick their kids up from school.” In the past five years, ICE has been reported in West Marin twice, according to Socorro Romo, the executive director at West Marin Community Services. At that time, agents took only the people they were looking for, who had deportation orders, Ms. Romo said; there were no raids. Yet fears in the immigrant community persist. “What I noticed, last year and since [President Trump] took office, if there is an event targeted to Latinos, they don’t participate as much as they did in the past,” said Ms. Romo, who pointed to lower attendance at last year’s Day of the Dead and Mexican Independence Day celebrations. Ms. Romo’s organization has hosted “know your rights” campaigns as part of an ongoing effort to inform the public about what to do in case of an immigration raid. An educational opportunity at West Marin School on Aug. 22 will focus on what employers should do in case of ICE activity. “When ICE comes in, they’re allowed in the dining room, but they can’t go back in the kitchen,” Mr. Martinez said, so employers should tell employees to stay in the private area. (Based on constitutional rights, ICE agents must have a signed judicial search warrant to enter a workplace or a home.) A local immigration rapid response team, created in 2017, has three groups providing different levels of support in case of reports of ICE activity. The first group is for rapid response: If ICE agents are reported in West Marin, responders will visit the site to confirm their presence and witness anything that might happen. “In no way would they interfere, they’d just record it and take notes,” Mr. Martinez said. “Because a lot of times there’s been an abuse of authority by ICE agents, and it’s the word of ICE agents versus the people who were detained.” The second group is for immediate assistance: Bilingual volunteers help make phone calls and find legal aid as a bridge between families and government agencies. The third group is for family assistance: They can help take children to school, schedule doctor visits and provide emotional support. “Whatever is needed after the partner is taken away,” Ms. Romo explained. W.M.C.S. continues to post on social media and distribute emails and voicemails about the constitutional rights of immigrants. (“Unfortunately, not many Latinos read the paper, and that’s why we haven’t publicized in the paper,” Ms. Romo said.) Next month, the group is hosting an event with civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, on Aug. 30. For those who want to help immigrant communities, Ms. Romo said the most direct way is to support her nonprofit by donating or volunteering. Attending events is also important. “Just be there, be with them,” she said. The immigration rapid response team can be reached by calling or texting (415) 320.4826.