Voices of the New Majority ~ Mario Castillo

Mario Castillo


No papers? You still have rights

Posted on March 20, 2018 by Mario Castillo

While the talk in Sonoma focuses on housing, school budget cuts and rebuilding after the wildfires, the story of roundups and attacks on the immigrant community has been going almost unobserved. The Rapid Response Networks in many counties all over northern California, including Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Sacramento, Merced and Monterey, have denounced the intimidation tactics used by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE. At the same time these networks have been continuing their work of educating both the immigrant community and their allies about their rights.

One of the ongoing efforts of the activists is to distribute materials to immigrants that state clearly the basic rights they have under the Constitution of the United States. The famous “red card” is one such resource. The information on this card describes clearly the immigrant’s right to remain silent if approached by immigration agents intending to detain the person.

The first directive is, “Don’t open the door.” This directive is based on the Fourth Amendment, which requires a signed judicial warrant to enter a home. In well-attended workshops that are being offered all over Sonoma County, attorneys are advising that if ICE agents are at your door, you can slide the card under the door or hold it up at a window. If someone is approached on the street or in the workplace, that person can simply hand the agent the red card. The important thing is to let the agents know that you are aware of your Constitutional rights.

The card includes this statement: “I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, or sign or hand you any documents, based on my Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.” It continues, “I do not give you permission to enter my home based on the Fourth Amendment rights … unless you have a warrant to enter, signed by a judge or magistrate with my name on it, that you slide under the door.”

The attorney who presented at a recent workshop explained that opening the door is considered by ICE as permission to enter the home.

Here in Sonoma Valley, these workshops are put on by the Sonoma Valley Action Coalition, a part of the countywide Rapid Response Network. La Luz is a sponsor. SVAC was organized as a result of the strong response from people all over the Valley to the November 2016 election. It currently has over 100 members. Forty-five locals have been trained as “rapid responders,” and more are needed.

The workshops, beyond educating people about their rights, help build a sense of community and lessen the fear and uncertainty that the immigrant community has been living under since the advent of the Trump administration in Washington. And educating immigrants about their rights also serves as a deterrent to potential abuses on the part of police or ICE agents.

A goal of the Coalition has been wide distribution of these red cards throughout the Valley, in public places and workplaces, churches, legal assistance offices, schools, shops and help centers. The immigrant community, and the community at large, needs to know that the U.S. Constitution protects even the undocumented with the right to remain silent and to speak with an attorney.

The card is printed in English on one side, Spanish on the other. If an immigration agent does not speak Spanish, or the person approached does not speak English, the card informs the agent that the person has rights under the Constitution and is aware of those rights. The undocumented do not have all the rights of those born here, but they do have the constitutional protections mentioned.

The community actions I’ve described are brought about by the new policy of President Trump’s administration, to expand and accelerate deportations by detaining any undocumented person they can identify. This eliminates the priorities established under his predecessor Barack Obama of concentrating on criminals.

According to information from the Rapid Response networks in areas where ICE roundups have recently occurred, ICE agents have been arriving at a home or workplace in search of a specific person, but they request documents from everyone present. Those who lack documents and are unaware of their rights have been detained and may be deported.

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