Workshops help guide undocumented immigrants

EDITOR’S NOTE: The last names of some people in this story were withheld in order to protect their privacy.

LYONS — In light of ramped up federal immigration enforcement, a series of workshops to guide undocumented immigrants is being offered by the Workers Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York.

President Donald Trump signed the executive order "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements" in January. The new policies are designed to stem "illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States," according to information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (http://bit.ly/2lrcCRg).

During one of the presentations held Feb. 19 at Grace Presbyterian Church, Rebecca Fuentes offered information and advice to more than 30 migrant families about their rights in case of potential contact with Immigration Customs & Enforcement officials or Customs and Border Patrol officers.

Immigration officials cannot enter a person’s home without a warrant, explained Fuentes, a lead organizer at the Workers Center. If an immigrant is detained, the detainee also has the right to be silent. She said undocumented workers also are encouraged to decline to sign any paperwork, to document everything about their cases if they are detained, and to join advocacy efforts to reverse policies against immigrants.

Also in case of detention, Fuentes said immigrants should be prepared to produce letters of support from a workers’ center or their church to prove that they have established roots in a community. They also should obtain passports for their children if they were born in the United States.

"The most (important) thing is to be ready," she said. "You have to set aside fear and be strategic. … In New York, we provide so much (labor). We have a lot of power."

Yet workers like Eliceo said they are afraid of what will happen under the new president. Eliceo, who attended the Feb. 19 session and did not provide his last name, said he has worked at factories, construction sites, and dairy and produce farms since coming to the United States in 1996. The native of Morelos, Mexico, said he moved to western New York in 2008.

Opponents of illegal immigration should focus on the system more than punishing immigrants such as himself who keep the economy going, he said.

"We need them, and they need us," he said of the relationship between undocumented workers like himself and Americans. "Who’s going to pick the apples? … Without us, you also won’t have milk or other (dairy) products."

EDITOR’S NOTE: The information offered by Fuentes, is also available at the center’s website at workerscny.org.

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