Inside A ‘Know Your Rights’ Training For Colorado Immigrants

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Photo: ICE Immigration Arrest AP
In February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest a foreign national during a targeted operation aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles.

Immigrant advocates say more Coloradans are seeking information about the rights of undocumented Americans, as the Trump administration starts a promised crackdown on illegal immigration. Several organizations that conduct "Know Your Rights" training in Colorado say they are offering additional sessions for students, parents, human service agencies and other groups across the state to discuss scenarios like what a family can do when immigration agents knock on their door.

Such trainings took place during the Obama administration, which set a record for deportations. But anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the current White House has encouraged more Coloradans to get informed, advocates say, which has increased demand. Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a Denver-based organization that advocates for minority and immigrant students, started offering trainings a few months ago, and plans to hold them at least once a month, including one tonight.

At a session last week, several youth leaders from the Denver area learned what to do if they get stopped on the street by a police officer or immigration agent and asked for their documentation. They were told to record every interaction, and that if an agent comes to the family's home, to ask for a warrant before opening the door. They were also told to use "magic words" like, "Have I done something wrong?" and "I am going to remain silent."

Other groups train immigrants and their allies in other parts of Colorado. For example, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition hold sessions a few times a month in Summit County and the Roaring Fork Valley, according to organizer Sophia Clark.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to be interviewed about the agency's operations in Colorado.

Colorado Matters producer Rachel Estabrook visited a recent training session and spoke with some of the participants. She shared their stories with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Padres y Jovenes Unidos organizer Tania Chairez on the main message the trainings convey:

"At the base level, we want people to realize that the Constitution protects everyone regardless of immigration status. So if you’re in the U.S., you have basic rights, like the right to remain silent… And those are things that people who are immigrating to the US don't necessarily know -- especially if they’re undocumented."

Chairez on why more immigrants are setting up "emergency plans," for their property and families in the event of an unexpected deportation:

"Obviously the biggest concern for my [undocumented] parents was: 'If we get deported, who’s going to take care of your siblings?' And they're all underage [U.S. citizens]. So right now we're in the process of figuring out a power of attorney letter for me to take care of my siblings. That is a scary conversation to have to have. It’s a whole lot of responsibility and a whole lot of pressure to have to talk through in case of an emergency."

Padres y Jovenes Co-executive Director Ricardo Martinez on changes since President Trump's inauguration:

"Honestly, in terms of what happened under [former President] Obama, in terms of people getting picked up, that’s been the same... People were just getting picked up because they [came in contact with immigration authorities]. That’s been true under Obama, but now more aggressively under Trump."