UC Berkeley students, immigration attorneys partner to offer free legal consultations

Jack Austin/Staff

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Five UC Berkeley students partnered with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, or ILRC, to offer free legal consultations with immigration attorneys Thursday evening at Longfellow Middle School.

These consultations were offered in light of the impending repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which allows certain undocumented people to legally live and work in the United States — as announced by the Trump administration. About one quarter of DACA recipients live in California, and under the Trump administration’s decision to repeal the program, their legal status is now uncertain.

During the workshop, attendees were taught in both English and Spanish that they have the right not to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, or ICE, into their homes without first seeing a warrant with their name on it signed by a judge. They were also taught that they do not have to sign anything or answer any questions before seeing a lawyer.

According to the workshop’s organizers, many undocumented immigrants are unaware that they have constitutional rights in the United States.

“Unfortunately, ICE, they are very cruel, and they will go to the door saying they have a warrant and they don’t,” said Kimberly, a UC Berkeley sophomore and one of the organizers, who did not give her last name because she is undocumented. “Or they will arrest multiple people in one house … If you don’t know your rights, the worst could happen.”

The event was intended to provide support and information to members of the broader undocumented community rather than just DACA recipients. This is especially important, Kimberly said, because many undocumented students at Berkeley do not have DACA status to begin with.

One of the main organizers, Bryan Osorio, a UC Berkeley political science and cognitive science student, said he became inspired to become an activist for the undocumented community after seeing agricultural workers and people he knew being deported by ICE. He and a group of friends reached out to people at bus stops, stores and churches to spread word about the event.

After Osorio made contact with ILRC lawyer Mark Silverman, Silverman reached out to three of his colleagues, all of whom offered to provide legal services at the event pro bono.

“With the recent repeal of DACA there has been a lot of fear in the immigrant community, and I think part of what the ILRC does is to calm that fear and have people feel prepared,” said Emily Grose, a UC Berkeley political economy senior interning with ILRC.

A Berkeley resident at the meeting who asked to remain anonymous for his family’s safety said the event was helpful, especially because the lawyers were well-informed on the immigration process. His mother, sister, brother and father had been visiting San Diego recently, he said, and when they tried to cross the border back to Tijuana, they were detained by ICE agents.

He has not heard from them in four days.

“(The event) made me feel good because sometimes I don’t know about laws. I’m new here and I’m another immigrant here,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t know about the law and our rights. Many people didn’t come (to the event) because they were scared.”

Contact Jack Austin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JackAustinDC.