Latino Life: Local lawyer clarifies immigrant rights

Recent raids by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE have increased interest in immigrant rights. Local immigration lawyer Leah Tuisavalalo joined Latino Life host Graciela Moreno to talk about immigrant rights. Watch the entire interview.

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

Graciela: Now, earlier, we were talking to the folks over at the Mexican consulate about the services available to the folks that they represent, and they were talking a lot about immigrant rights and what these folks need to know in terms of what they can or cannot do when they're detained by ICE, when someone approaches them or knocks on their door. Every time that we post these, though, we do get some angry responses from folks that say that we are somehow protecting undocumented immigrants and that these folks are criminals, but these folks have the same rights that you and I have, correct? Tell us about that.

Leah: That is true.The Constitution, specifically the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendment, protect people from the deprivation of life, liberty, property without due process. So, you know, the right to remain silent, the right to not have to open your door unless the law enforcement produces a warrant, those are rights that all of us are afforded in the Constitution, including unlawful immigrants.

Graciela: Okay, I know that we have some that we wanted to show you -- there we go -- up on our screen over here. So, these pretty much sound like Miranda rights, like when folks get read their Miranda rights when they're arrested, right? Because innocent until proven guilty, right? So they need to know that this is how they're protected.So tell us a little bit more about these in particular.

Leah: So, the right to remain silent -- again, just like Miranda rights. Unless a law enforcement officer has a warrant specifically with your name on it, signed by a judge, you don't have to speak to them.You need to request a lawyer. You don't have to say anything without speaking to a lawyer. You can express that you don't consent to a search of your person, your belongings, or your home unless, again, a warrant is provided and that warrant is signed by a judge. A lot of times, ICE officers have documents that are produced by Immigration but are not signed by a judge, and so those aren't the types of warrants that allow them to enter your home and search your belongings.

Graciela: And they also have a right to make a phone call, right, and to contact their consulate. And there's a consulate here locally. Now, one thing that we know from a recent case is, a lot of times, it's not like they're just knocking on your door. You know, many of these ICE raids or these arrests have been made when you're at a grocery store or maybe in your place of work.What can they do then?

Leah: That has been happening a lot lately. And just like the graphic said, you don't have to answer any questions by an ICE officer unless they have an arrest warrant, and even if they have an arrest warrant, then they can take you into custody but you don't have to answer any of their questions and you can request to speak to a lawyer. I know that a lot of people don't necessarily feel like that's an option for them since it can be an intimidating process. You know, a lot of times, it's an officer with weapons or...And so, a lot of times, people think that, if they're just freely offering information, that that might help them in some way, but it really doesn't.

Graciela: Okay. And so I know that I have been told by some immigration advocates, as well, that these folks feel very intimidated in that situation. So as much as they know their rights and know that they don't have to provide any information, a lot of times, they feel like they do, right, just because of the situation that they find themselves in.

Leah: Absolutely. There is definitely an air of intimidation and fear, especially with the recent raids around the Valley. So it's just really important for people to understand what their rights are and not to let that fear and intimidation motivate them into giving information that ICE is not privy to have.

Graciela: Okay. Now let's talk a little bit about the cases that you are seeing in your office. Another thing that we often hear people say is, "They need to go back, and they need to get in line." So let's talk about this "line." Is there a line that these folks need to be on?

Leah: Oh, gosh. Not really. The common cases, actually, that I see right now are those who have been picked up in sort of a collateral sweep. It hasn't been people that ICE is specifically looking for. I've had cases where Immigration has shown up at someone's house with a warrant for someone else who may be used to live there, and because they're allowed inside, they just gather up anybody who's in there and they start asking them questions about their status and they just take anybody who's in the house who doesn't have status. So there's no -- there's no line.There's no -- It's also happening where people who have status are being forced to prove it, and if they're not carrying it on them, they're still detained and taken into detention until they can prove that they have documents of some sort.

Graciela: So do folks need to carry their green card at all times? And who needs to carry it, then, at this point?

Leah: Yeah, I mean, a lot of times, people consider -- they don't carry their residency card around because they don't want to lose it. Because similar to your Social Security card, you don't want people having your information. And it costs a lot of money to replace it, so they don't carry it around. They carry around a valid driver's license like the rest of us. They shouldn't be required to carry it around, but we have had instances where, when they don't have it, they are being detained until they can prove that they have status.

Graciela: Okay.And one final question 'cause we're running out of time.What happens -- How quickly after someone is detained and is found to be in the country without documents do they get deported, so they -- are they forced to leave the country?

Leah: Well, it really depends on the situation. If they have been removed from the country before, then they don't get to see an immigration judge and, generally, they're removed pretty quickly. But if they request to see a judge, they have no criminal record, they will remain in custody until either ICE issues a bond or an immigration judge issues a bond, which can be weeks at a time, especially with the raids. There's a lot of people in detention now just waiting to be processed, so it can take at least weeks either to be released or to see a judge.

Graciela: All right. Thank you so much. Really appreciate having you here.
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