Forum reveals patterns of intimidation, entrapment of unwitting immigrants caught in Trump’s travel ban

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By Harvey Barkin

New America Media (NAM) last February 8 called for a telephonic press brief to make sense of President Donald Trump’s travel ban in Tracking Trump: new priorities for deportation.

NAM, together with Ready California put together a panel of speakers who gave advice on how immigrant communities can protect themselves and what families with mixed status can do now.

But just as the teleconference ended, the next day, a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously refused to reinstate Trump’s Executive Order banning the entry into the U.S. of residents from seven mostly Muslim countries.

Panelist and Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) Deputy Director Sally Kinoshita said, “While the decision from the Ninth Circuit of Appeals is good news as it means that individuals from the seven targeted countries will continue to be able to travel and legally enter the United States, immigrants in general continue to be vulnerable under a Trump Administration. Most vulnerable are those with any kind of criminal arrest in their past and those who have no papers. However, President Trump’s so called ‘priorities’ for who will be targeted are really no priorities at all as they include these categories and more, and are so broad as to encompass almost any immigrant in this country.”

Kinoshita responded to FilAm Star’s query on the reported list of the more than 300,000 Filipinos illegally staying in the U.S. first revealed to CNN Philippines by special envoy to the U.S. Babe Romualdez.

She said, “I have not heard anything about this, and don’t know how they came up with that number. I have seen data from the Migration Policy Institute (http://www.migrationpolicy.org) from months ago that estimated the undocumented Filipino population in the United States as 197,000. At the time, I culled the Filipino data and put it into a spreadsheet so I could see which counties had the biggest undocumented Filipino populations. It was part of a larger spreadsheet that included many different countries of origin.”

“There’s no way the estimate 310,000 number came from denied DACAs. According to USCIS’ most recently released data (go to this website)

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/All%20Form%20Types/DACA/daca_performancedata_fy2016_qtr4.pdf),

fewer than 5,000 Filipinos applied for DACA.”

As to fears about the country being added to Trump’s original seven-country list, Kinoshita said, “It’s not clear if the Philippines would be added to any list. Last week, a rumor circulated that ‘Southern Philippines’ might be added to the list. But it didn’t happen. And as you probably know the 9th Circuit ruled that the ban cannot even apply for the originally listed seven countries.”

National Immigration Law Center Staff Attorney Esther Sung and ILRC Staff Attorney Grisel Ruiz were the other speakers in NAM’s panel.

The forum brought to light the not so transparent roll-out of Trump’s Executive Order and a number of anecdotal accounts of returnees not being allowed access to lawyers, immigrants’ laptops and smart devices being confiscated and the hapless unwittingly signing away their immigrant privileges.

Kinoshita also talked about leaked memos about measures that were not announced or implemented. She said travel for most DACA recipients would likely end and that those who received 2-year work permit can still use it but that over the years they would lose protection from being deported and their permission to work.

She also said revealed about “a leak memo that talks about issuing a rule that would restrict immigrants, including visa and green card holders from admission to the U.S. if they would likely receive any benefits that is determined by income resources and financial aid.” This would mean welfare and cash aid, family assistance and Calworks. She advised caution in replying to questions when returning to the U.S.

Ruiz counseled that to counter this campaign of intimidation, “every individual, regardless of (immigration) status should remember (the U.S. Constitution’s) 4th Amendment. And the 5th Amendment, your right to remain silent. You should not write any information (that) ICE (can take). Never sign anything you don’t understand and without an attorney present. If you’re in deportation proceedings, you have a right to an attorney.”

Kinoshita echoed Ruiz: “Your rights have not changed. Do not open the door without (seeing a signed) warrant.” Ruiz added that “usually (ICE) does not have it.”

But Ruiz also said the unfortunate thing is that even though anyone has the right to have an attorney present, there are no public defenders in deportation.

She said that in response to this, California leads the way. “We have two key bills: SB 54 and AB 3.”

State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon’s (D-Los Angeles) SB54 or California Values Act seeks to prevent the use of state and local public resources to aid ICE agents in deportation actions.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s (D-Oakland) AB 3 urges support for a bill that he said would provide critical immigration resources to criminal defense lawyers working on the front lines. His legislation seeks to create regional and statewide resource centers to provide immigration law training and advice for court-appointed criminal defense attorneys.

Ruiz also mentioned SB 6 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) which would create a state program to fund legal representation for those facing deportation.

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