Women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion hosts ‘Know Your Rights’ fo­rum

Aim is to ed­u­cate, in­form im­mi­grants, oth­ers in the com­mu­nity

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

The or­ga­ni­za­tion Women of Ac­tion Charles County, or WOACC, held an open meet­ing Satur­day with the Mary­land chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union to dis­cuss im­mi­gra­tion rights with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

Abena McAl­lis­ter, found­ing mem­ber of WOACC, said re­cent re­ports of im­mi­gra­tion raids in St. Mary’s County and else­where raised con­cerns among mem­bers re­gard­ing what spe­cific rights in­di­vid­u­als may have.

“We want to make sure that we get in­for­ma­tion out to the com­mu­nity that the com­mu­nity is in need of,” McAl­lis­ter said. “A few of our mem­bers, who have im­mi­grant fam­ily mem­bers were con­cerned, and if peo­ple are con­cerned, we want to ad­dress it.”

WOACC formed fol­low­ing the Women’s March on Washington in Jan­uary and or­ga­nized the “A Day With­out Women” demon­stra­tion ear­lier this month.

“This is in­for­ma­tion we can go out and give to peo­ple,”

McAl­lis­ter said. “A lot of peo­ple con­tacted me and told me they were afraid to even come be­cause they were afraid some­one would tip ICE [Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment] off, which is sad.”

Wala Ble­gay, at­tor­ney and board mem­ber of the ACLU Mary­land chap­ter, said the ACLU has been per­form­ing “Know Your Rights” train­ings for sev­eral years, but re­cently the fo­cus has shifted to in­clude im­mi­grant rights.

“The ACLU has been hear­ing about some home raids, and there have been some en­coun­ters that we’ve been hear­ing about since Jan­uary, so we’ve been go­ing out and re­mind­ing peo­ple of their rights,” Ble­gay said.

Ble­gay said po­lice do not have the right to ask driv­ers for their im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers if they are pulled over, nor should they ask a pedes­trian walk­ing down the street.

“If you are driv­ing a car, they need to see your driver’s li­cense, be­cause that is your li­cense to op­er­ate the ve­hi­cle, and the regis­tra­tion, when they ask, but im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers should not be part of that re­quest,” Ble­gay said. “Legally, un­der the law, you are re­quired to have your im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers with you … but that doesn’t mean you need to give it over when you’re driv­ing or walk­ing down the street.”

Ble­gay said the most im­por­tant thing is to stay calm and do no more than is legally re­quired.

“If they ask you to open the door, do not open the door, un­less they have a valid ad­min­is­tra­tive war­rant,” Ble­gay said. “The war­rant has to be signed by a judge, and it has to have the name stated. If it doesn’t have that, you open the door.”

Isaac Falusi, an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney, said po­lice may en­ter a home if in “hot pur­suit” of a flee­ing sus­pect with­out a war­rant.

“Be­side that, the only time they can en­ter your house is if they have a war­rant,” Falusi said.

An im­mi­gra­tion war­rant, signed by an im­mi­gra­tion judge, should have “1-200” or “1-350” on one side, Falusi said. That type of war­rant is nar­rower than a po­lice war­rant.

“An ad­min­is­tra­tive hear­ing war­rant, that war­rant is for a per­son, so they don’t have a right to search your home, be­cause it re­quires con­sent,” Falusi said.

Ble­gay said it is im­por­tant not to re­sist, but not to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion than legally re­quired with­out the pres­ence of an at­tor­ney.

“Do not re­sist, but do not talk un­til you have a lawyer present,” Ble­gay said.

Falusi said it is im­por­tant to co­op­er­ate with law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, but to re­mem­ber the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion is based on the con­cept of “per­sonal au­ton­omy.”

“There is a prin­ci­ple in the Con­sti­tu­tion of self gov­ern­ment, self au­ton­omy. I can­not come to you and in­vade your space. The Con­sti­tu­tion does not give any­body power to do that, no one,” Falusi said.

Falusi said law en­force­ment must be bal­anced with in­di­vid­ual rights.

“In or­der to co­op­er­ate with law en­force­ment and to keep our coun­try safe, but also to make sure our per­son is not vi­o­lated, our hu­man rights are not taken, there is a balanc­ing act that we all have to do,” Falusi said.

Ble­gay said a smart­phone app, cur­rently avail­able for free from the ACLU, al­lows you to up­load and send video from a cell phone if you be­lieve you are wit­ness­ing a vi­o­la­tion of some­one’s rights.

“We don’t con­done break­ing the law,” McAl­lis­ter said. “But we want peo­ple to have the in­for­ma­tion about their rights that they need, and so that’s why we want to pro­vide it to the com­mu­nity.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney Isaac Falusi speaks at a “Know Your Rights” fo­rum hosted by the Women of Ac­tion Charles County on March 25.

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