By Anika Nahar
An immigration attorney warned undocumented students at a campus workshop on Thursday to avoid speaking to the police under the Trump administration due to the threat of deportation.
Alexander Shalom, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, emphasized the importance of citizens’ rights when confronting with law enforcement and immigration services.
“If there is law enforcement or immigration services at your door and they want to come in, make them show you a warrant,” Shalom said. “It’s also important to make sure that they have the proper warrant.”
Shalom was speaking at the workshop at the Cheng Library Auditorium organized by faculty members to provide information to undocumented students concerned about changes to the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
Nearly 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2014, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. The study also shows that 59 percent of illegal immigrants reside in six states, including New Jersey. Many undocumented citizens are concerned about their futures following President Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s definitely a scary thing,” said Victoria Saavedras, a communication student from Colombia. “I know people who are legitimately worried about their futures.”
Panelists included Marisol Conde-Hernandez, an undocumented Rutgers law student and New Jersey native, said students must be prepared for modifications to immigration laws.
“The worst thing about being in a panicked state is that it clouds your judgment,” Hernandez said. “And this is not the time when you can afford to have clouded judgment.”
Hernandez gave advice for undocumented citizens in case they are taken into custody by law enforcement or agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
“Save money. Make sure someone has access to your bank counts and assets in case you don’t,” Hernandez said. “Also, make sure that you have someone that can look after your children if something were to happen.”
Hernandez also stressed the significance of having proper documentation on hand for attorneys.
“Keep every single form of document that you have in a secure place,” Hernandez said. “And if you have fake documentation, get rid of them because it will end up getting you in more trouble.”
Shalom added, “One of the best ways to avoid deportation is to evade interaction with law enforcement.”
Shalom said ICE agents will often try to dupe people by showing them an administrative warrant signed by ICE, when a judge’s signature is required for a valid warrant.
Shalom also shared with the audience the ways to protect themselves if confronted by the police in public.
“If you have the right to be where you are, you have the right to record,” Shalom said, mentioning the 1991 Rodney King beating that spurred riots and protests across the nation because of a captured recoding.
“In order to stop your car, the police must have reasonable suspicion,” Shalom said. “And without reasonable suspicion, cops cannot force you to answer questions, ask for ID or documentation.”
Shalom and Hernandez also answered questions from the audience before ending the seminar with words of encouragement and hope.
“These new laws put into effect will be fought,” Shalom said. “They will be fought by good immigration lawyers. They will be fought by civil libertarians, and they will be fought on the streets.”