'Know Your Rights': Immigrants Prepare for Increased Enforcement

ACLU attorney Angélica Salceda gives a presentation about how to interact with immigration agents at a meeting in Mendota. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

Angélica Salceda, an attorney for the ACLU, stands in front of a small audience at a public library in Mendota.

She’s leading a “Know Your Rights” event for immigrants in the small farmworker town about an hour west of Fresno. The aim is to educate immigrants about their constitutional rights so they know what to do if they’re confronted by immigration officials.

Attorneys and immigration advocates have been hosting these events for years, but they’ve ramped up efforts since President Trump took office.

Many of those in attendance are nervous that they could be targeted for deportation under President Trump’s aggressive immigration policies.

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Salceda kicks off the presentation by telling the group that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are allowed to use “questionable tactics” to try to get undocumented immigrants to incriminate themselves.

'Know Your Rights': California Immigrants Prepare for Increased Enforcement

'Know Your Rights': California Immigrants Prepare for Increased Enforcement

“Remember, the police are legally authorized to lie, intimidate and use questionable tactics -- same goes for ICE,” she warns, “[but] we aren’t allowed to lie to them.”

One man raises his hand. He’s heard immigration officials will knock on a door looking for someone who doesn’t live there and take away any other undocumented people they find.

Salceda nods. “Yeah, these are the tactics we’re talking about,” she says.

Another woman asks Salceda what she should do if ICE comes while she’s working in the fields.

“With so many things changing around immigration policy, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Salceda says. But she offers one recommendation: “If agents say, ‘Everybody with a green card over here, undocumented people over there,’ -- just by following those instructions, we’re revealing too much information."

When Salceda is done, Arelis Clemente and Gabriela Mora from the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative take over. They act out a pair of skits, demonstrating the do's and don'ts if ICE comes to the door.

When ICE Comes Knocking: Two Scenarios

In the first, the woman playing the immigrant opens the door for ICE, dutifully answers all of the agent’s questions and ultimately explains that she entered the country illegally.

Opening the Door for ICE - Scenario I

Opening the Door for ICE - Scenario I

The actors stop to highlight that the woman in this scenario did not exercise her right to remain silent. And by opening the door, she gave ICE the right to search her home.

In the second scene, the woman does not identify herself and asks the agent if he has a search warrant. The actors tell the group that even if ICE has a warrant, it’s only valid if it’s signed by a judge and accurately lists the name and address of the person they are looking for.

Opening the Door for ICE - Scenario II

Opening the Door for ICE - Scenario II

At the end of the meeting, attendees pick up little red cards stacked on a table. One side details the basics from the meeting. The other side reads: “I wish to exercise my constitutional rights.”

Rather than answering the door when someone who could be an ICE agent knocks, immigrants can slide this under the door to invoke their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, which Salceda reminds the group they have, even if they are undocumented.