Lawyers, activists answer questions about immigration policy

Heather Feibleman/Staff

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Community lawyers and activists held a “Know Your Rights” panel at Berkeley City College on Thursday, during which they answered the audience’s questions regarding immigration and privacy rights.

The event was hosted by the Undocumented Community Resource Center, or UCRC, a Berkeley City College student group created to provide support for undocumented students. Many attendants of the meeting posed questions regarding the specifics of national immigration policy and how it would affect them and others in their lives in light of the Trump administration.

Elizabeth Flores, a panelist and UC Davis graduate student, described the panel as a community effort and said most of those on stage were part of a grassroots movement focused on educating as many people as possible. According to Flores, the group wants to provide people with the skills necessary to advocate for themselves and for others.

“I reached out to the (UCRC) because given the political climate and given the results of the election, we felt that it was necessary,” Flores said. “Even when there is a new president in office, their rights stand … we wanted to make sure that people knew that.”

One panelist, Angelica Vargas, is a member of the Educators for Fair Consideration, which partners with schools in San Francisco to develop their resources and help undocumented students get to college.

Community members expressed concerns about the undocumented people in their lives, such as whether applying for financial aid would threaten their undocumented parents and whether or not it’s safe for undocumented immigrants to trust others with their status.

“I am scared of what could happen to my friends,” said Erika Castano, a member of the UCRC and an organizer of the event. “I have met a lot of people who are undocumented or who were undocumented.”

Castano said she’s afraid not only because of Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration policy but also because of all of the things Trump has said to stigmatize people of color. According to Castano, it is because of Trump that it is important to stand up for others now.

The panelists highlighted the complexity of immigration issues by giving multiple answers to the same question, saying that a lot of it depended on the situation. But the panelists made it clear that everyone should be prepared for when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents come to your door. Nataniel Johnson-Gottlieb, one of the panelists and a Contra Costa County public defender, emphasized that communities need to come together to educate each and prepare themselves.

Emma Fogel, a UC Berkeley junior who attended the event, said the panel helped to answer her questions and added that she would recommend that others come to similar events in the future.

“I learned a lot,” Fogel said.  “Now more than ever it’s important to be learning how we can be allies to (those) who are being affected by the current administration.”

Contact Michael Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @_HyunkyuL.