NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Teresa Vivar has a simple warning for undocumented immigrants: Know your rights.
Tensions in New Brunswick’s immigrant community have risen after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested six people with alleged gang ties last week on civil immigration charges. The raids began early Thursday, sweeping up people on their way to work and causing activists like Vivar to question whether ICE planned to only go after gang members.
While some people on social media applauded the raids, Vivar fought back tears in an online video as she explained how children have been afraid to attend school and parents have worried about being deported. But, she told TAPinto New Brunswick, undocumented immigrants can take preemptive action to protect themselves.
“Learn to use your fear to empower yourself,” Vivar said, “because, as a worker paying taxes, you deserve respect and legal representation, as anybody else.”
First, she said, they must know what’s considered a criminal charge and avoid engaging in such behavior, which could lead to deportation. Undocumented immigrants should also try to save money to be used if they get detained, Vivar said.
It’s also critical that undocumented immigrants “build a strong community” of neighbors and friends, she said. That helps alert people when something is wrong.
Furthermore, local organizations and activists may help immigrants learn more about their rights and, in some cases, provide resources when to detainees, Vivar said.
One such organization is the Deportation and Immigration Response Equip, or DIRE, which formed earlier this year in Highland Park. DIRE distributed fliers yesterday at the Workers’ Memorial Day march in New Brunswick.
Each pamphlet advised undocumented immigrants to memorize phone numbers of family members and their lawyers; give copies of important documents to someone you trust; avoid answering ICE’s questions; not resist arrest, even if agents don’t appear to be following the rules; avoid lying or showing false documents; and more.
DIRE also recommends undocumented immigrants not consent to any searches or un from ICE agents. What’s more, the group said, subjects should review the warrant to ensure that it’s been signed by a judge.