Student clinic hosts workshops on immigration rights, policy

Kristen Tamsil/Staff

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The Student Immigration Relief Clinic, or SIRC, hosted a workshop Thursday in Moffitt Library Room 106 to speak about recent immigration policy and the rights of undocumented immigrants.

During the workshop — titled “Understanding Immigration Policy after Family Separation” — Isaac Bloch, legal program associate from the UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, talked about his work in naturalization and legal aid. Antonio Medrano, chair of the Berkeley North East Bay Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, presented a “Know Your Rights” workshop.

“The reason why people are coming overwhelmingly from Central America and Mexico is because they’re coming from situations of extreme violence,” Bloch said. “Really in horrific situations. That’s why asylums exist. It exists for people to come here lawfully and apply for an entry. You don’t need a visa to apply for an asylum.”

According to Bloch, President Donald Trump’s policy changes are limiting protection for asylum seekers by limiting access, curtailing due process and rolling back advances in asylum laws. Bloch presented studies and statistics on immigration and asylum to the students.

In addition, Bloch explained the costs of detention and mass deportations as well as high court-appearance rates for nondetained immigrants.

Medrano talked about his experience as the chair of the Berkeley North East Bay Chapter of the ACLU, specifically about training students and adults who are from populations at risk of deportation under the new administration. Medrano added that everyone has rights and that students should speak up when they see someone making racist, homophobic or sexist comments.

SIRC’s workshop directors, campus sophomores Ian Castro and Madhumitha Krishnan, said they have been planning the workshops for several months, with a general theme of understanding immigration policy in the modern age. Castro and Krishnan said they reached out to various organizations around the Bay Area that worked with asylum applications and undocumented immigrants.

“I’m glad that we had two sides of the issue,” Krishnan said. “We had (Bloch), who brought in good research and well-thought-out points and facts, and we had (Medrano), who was way more activist-minded. He told us our rights and what we can physically go out and do.”

Andrea Lepe, a campus sophomore, said she attended the workshop because many of her loved ones are undocumented, and added that the workshop interested her a lot. Lepe said people, especially undocumented immigrants, are often not aware of their rights.

“As an immigrant, for example, I think most people know about the three specific things you need to know about a warrant — but also just having the knowledge allows you to take action on it,” Castro said.

Contact Bella An at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BellaAn_dc.