Readying for ICE raids, local groups educate on rights

02/08/2018

If immigration officials bang on your door, you do not have to open it unless they show a warrant signed by a federal judge with your name on it. If they stop you on the street, in your car or at your workplace, you don’t have to answer any questions apart from providing your name. You have a right to consult an attorney and a right to go before an immigration judge.

This month, West Marin Community Services is hosting “know your rights” trainings for those without papers and their loved ones, sparked by recent concerns about nearby immigration raids. With the first pilot training held six months ago, the upcoming meetings are scheduled for Feb. 13 in Bolinas and Feb. 27 in Point Reyes Station. Another was held on Tuesday in Tomales. 

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle last month reported information from an anonymous source claiming that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other northern California cities. The source said federal officers planned to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people and characterized the operation as retaliation against California’s recent sanctuary state legislation.

Sure enough, after that article, ICE agents served notices of inspection at 77 northern California businesses, alerting them of an impending audit of their hiring records. Reports also surfaced last month of agents targeting 7-Eleven stores across the country, including in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. 

The notices of inspection require employers to produce their company’s I-9 forms—which they must have for each employee, whether citizen or non-citizen, verifying identity and authorization to work—within three days, after which an inspection is conducted. (An important note for employers: according to recent state legislation, you are required to verify that immigration officials have a judicial warrant before letting them into non-public areas of the workplace.)

“There is a lot of fear, especially within the undocumented community, that they don’t have any resources and that a lot of the resources or help that’s available doesn’t apply to them,” Jorge Martinez, a program assistant for West Marin Community Services, said. “There has been a lot of concern in Point Reyes especially in the last month because most of the workforce here commutes from Petaluma and other parts of Sonoma County, where we heard there were raids.”

Mr. Martinez said fear has been high in general since President Trump was elected. In response, West Marin Community Services and the immigration action committee of West Marin Standing Together collaborated to create a rapid-response emergency phone line. 

If there is an ICE activity, or if anyone spots an agent, they can call Mr. Martinez, who is serving as a dispatcher. If the report turns out to be only a rumor, Mr. Martinez would send out a message to the hotline to spread the information
locally. 

If the report is verified, he would help whoever is involved through any encounter, reminding them of their rights. In this scenario, he would notify a group of local volunteers who would respond to the scene as observers, recording any interactions on their phones from a safe distance in order to document the event as legal evidence. 

“If there was a raid and someone is being detained, we would save that information for the attorney,” Mr. Martinez explained. “If there’s any abuse of authority or due process, we would have that proof because otherwise, it is the ICE agent’s word against those of the detainee.” 

The groups have also signed up volunteers willing to provide ongoing support for families in case someone is taken away, such as referring them to legal help, helping take kids to school or shopping for groceries. 

“We want to create a sense of moral support, because people are so afraid they don’t want to leave the house,” Mr. Martinez said. 

Charles Nichol, an immigration attorney and Point Reyes Station resident who joined West Marin Standing together last year, provides the group’s immigration committee with legal advice about immigration law, how ICE operates and what can happen in court proceedings.

He also encourages undocumented residents to preemptively consult with an attorney or groups such as the Canal Alliance or Catholic Charities, to explore any options they might have to gain legal status. 

Mr. Nichol described how the passage of Senate Bill 54, which legalized non-cooperation policies between California law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities, has led ICE officials to start using other tactics. “They are trying to prove that the sanctuary status makes things worse for people, since now, instead of just going to the county jail to pick people up, they are taking other routes, such as going to places of work or homes,” he said. 

He also cautioned that the information from the Chronicle was not directly from officials. There has not been increased ICE activity in West Marin, he said, though the recent news has generated an “atmosphere of fear.”  

 

“The rapid response number is (415) 320.4826. Contact Jorge Martinez at that same number or at jorge@westmarincs.org if you’re interested in becoming a trained observer. Know your rights trainings are scheduled for Feb. 13 in Bolinas and Feb. 27 in Point Reyes Station, both at 6 p.m. at the elementary schools.”