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Student Forum on Immigration

Teach-in aims to quell fears of deportation under Trump administration

Knowing your rights and getting an attorney is key for undocumented students

The Immigrant Justice Clinic led a teach-in, the “American University Student Forum on Immigration,” with two student attorneys and an AU law professor on March 22 to discuss the rights and possible legal options for noncitizens living in the U.S.

The IJC, a student-led legal apparatus from AU’s Washington College of Law, has hosted about seven teach-ins around the D.C. area since President Donald Trump took office, Trey DeBrine, a student attorney from the law school’s panel, said.

“Ever since President Donald Trump has taken office, a fear of being deported by ICE agents has surged among the immigration community in the U.S.,” DeBrine said. “However, with the help from an immigration attorney, there is relief in many avenues.”

The purpose is to educate academic and professional communities about who is at risk of being deported and what can be done to navigate life within the U.S., especially if confronted by Immigration Customs Enforcement, he said. ICE agents are federal employees who have the authority to get a court order to deport anyone who is illegally living in the U.S.

About 11.4 million people reside in the U.S. without official paperwork to establish permanent or legal residency, Professor Amanda Frost, acting director of the clinic, said. Frost said that all noncitizens should always carry proof of status with them, even green card holders.

“It’s a federal violation to not carry your green card,” Frost, who teaches immigration law, said. “However, you can’t get deported if you don’t have it with you.”

However, a noncitizen living in the U.S. could avoid a legal quagmire if he or she knows their rights, Doran Shemin, the clinic’s student attorney, said.

“If someone is pulled over in his or her car, they have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and under the Fourth Amendment, the right not to be searched by a police officer without probable cause,” Shemin said.

While the federal government under the Obama administration had the authority to deport undocumented immigrants, an individual who overstayed his or her visa, or someone who didn’t properly go through customs, ICE agents focused their deportation efforts on undocumented criminals, Frost said.

DeBrine said the question now is who is a priority for deportation by ICE agents.

The Trump administration has expanded its authority to focus on different levels of immigration statuses, Frost said. That way, ICE agents have the legal standing to deport more noncitizens.

One option for an undocumented immigrant who predominantly speaks Spanish if threatened with deportation papers is to contact a nonprofit who can refer them to a legitimate immigration attorney to seek legal advice, DeBrine said.

An immigration attorney can instigate a deferred action against ICE agents’ deportation efforts by extending the date of a deportation, or allow someone to remain working without legal protections. While applying for a visa is a long process, having official government papers which show an intent to apply for legal status may deter the deportation process, he said.

Sophomore Brianna Goetzke, who is a U.S. citizen, said she attended the workshop because she wants to support noncitizens in their efforts to thwart deportation efforts by the federal government.

“I’m glad the teach-in touched on what to do if ICE officers come to noncitizens’ doors,” Goetzke said. “I want to know more about what bystanders like me can do to become a strong ally for the fight against wide-sweeping deportations.”

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