The Trump administration proposes sweeping changes that endanger the lives of immigrant families, including families with children born in the United States. The proposed “public charge” rule changes would strongly prejudice immigration pathways toward higher-income people, while raising new high barriers for prospective immigrants if they have lower incomes, or have used government benefits.

Under public and congressional pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program

April 25, 2018 – During testimony to the Senate Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would allow funding for the Legal Orientation Program to continue while the “efficiency audit” is ongoing. This is a relief to the agencies providing critical “know your rights” information to the more than 30,000 immigrants in 12 of Texas’ immigration detention centers. Sessions had previously announced that the program would end on May 1 while the audit took place.

The announcement means that the YMCA International Services will be allowed to continue its legal information program in the Houston area’s three detention centers, reaching more than 6,000 individuals per year. This program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for immigrants facing deportation in immigration detention centers, more than 80% of whom are without legal representation. Moreover, these programs improve the efficiency of the immigration court system and ultimately produce a net savings for taxpayers.

Nevertheless, the temporary cessation of LOP funding underscores the vulnerability of low-income immigrants, particularly those in detention and facing deportation.

Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative said,
While this is wonderful news today, we worry that we will be facing the same situation in the future if the DOJ’s audit does not support the continuation of the program. As a community, we need to recognize the importance of supporting programs that provide due process and information for immigrants facing deportation. The basic information provided by the LOP program should not hinge on a single funding stream, and the fact that this program could end anytime should motivate us to create additional programs and systems, such as our new Deportation Defense Houston project.

The Collaborative’s Deportation Defense Houston program will provide full representation to immigrants currently detained in the Houston region.

United We Dream has launched Notifica, a mobile application  designed to assist immigrant families who come in contact with immigration agents.

Notifica will serve as a key tool to assist immigrant families under increasing threat of criminalization and deportation as the Trump administration pushes further to carry out a mass detention and deportation agenda.

With the push of a button, Notifica connects users with their relatives, lawyers and support networks in a fast and secure manner. Notifica is the next step for our communities to continue organizing and protecting each other. 

Learn more about Notifica by visiting www.notifica.us and particularly the FAQ.

Help get the word out about Notifica out online by using the social media toolkit, and encourage people to text NOTIFICA to 877877 to get links to the app store.

Rapid Response & Reporting Infrastructure Builds as Anti-Immigrant Law SB 4 Turns Local Police into Deportation Agents and Congress Misses Deadline to Protect Millions of Immigrant Youth

The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC), with the help of Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, United We Dream, and other partners, announced expansion of its Immigrant Rights hotline. The updated hotline capacity will ensure that cases of profiling are brought to the attention of legal advocates, and will connect callers to local action and advocacy opportunities in order to fight against deportations abuse from enforcement agents. These are in addition to the hotline’s current capacity as a connection point to free and low-cost immigration legal services, and up-to-the-moment information about current immigration law and the policies that affect non-citizen residents of the greater Houston region.

HILSC and its partners announced the expansion as a countermeasure to the profiling effects of Texas’s Senate Bill 4 (SB4), and the continued voluntary collaboration of many city police departments in the region as well as Harris County Sheriff with ICE—a practice that has led to some of the country’s highest deportation rates in Houston. The group expects the hotline to serve as a network of information and protection for people of color facing discrimination, and the region’s 500,000+ undocumented residents, including thousands of immigrant youth currently fighting for permanent protections from deportation.

The hotline (833-HOU-IMMI) takes calls from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Operators are bilingual in Spanish and English, and interpretation is available in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, and other languages.

The hotline is made possible through the efforts of ACLU of Texas, Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.

Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“The Immigrant Rights Hotline received more than 5,000 calls in 2017, and has become an important access point to help our community find resources and legal services, particularly as anti-immigrant state and federal policies change on a near daily basis. We are incredibly grateful to all of the partners who helped develop and staff the Hotline throughout its first year, including Tahirih Justice Center, ACLU of Texas, Vinson & Elkins, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, and more than 100 volunteer attorneys. This cohort of dedicated individuals laid the groundwork for the expanded Hotline, staffed by BakerRipley, Boat People SOS, and United We Dream.”

Janette Diep, Executive Director at Boat People SOS and said:
“The hotline will give our community members the resource and support they need in the midst of changing immigration policies and during a time of many uncertainties.”

Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“An organized community is a powerful community, and the expanded capacities of the Hotline are one more way that we are building networks of information and organizing movement toward justice for the immigrant community in our region. The Hotline will connect our community to opportunities to take action and advocate at the local, state and national levels because despite the attacks on immigrants of all ages, we are here to fight and we are here to stay.”

Jill Campbell, Managing Immigration Attorney, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“The hotline will bring a sense of empowerment to the immigrant community and assure them that Houston will continue to be a welcoming city that is here to help.”

Edgar Saldivar, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Texas, said:
“In these troubling times, immigrant communities face great uncertainty and angst. Genuine questions abound, specifically, over DACA and SB4, and, generally, over the increasing intrusions by law enforcement agents into safe spaces for immigrant communities. For these reasons, it is important for Texans to have access to real-time information. With immigrants, refugees and travelers being targeted with new or more aggressive enforcement tactics, the ACLU and its partners on this hotline are committed to helping people understand their constitutional rights.”

In response to ongoing “requests for interviews” to refugees and asylees from the FBI and/or DHS, the Collaborative has compiled an FAQ and set of resources for service providers and families.  The below Refugees and FBI Interviews FAQ is available in PDF format in the following languages:

English: Refugees and FBI interviews FAQ
Arabic
Bengali
Dari
Indonesian
Pashto
Somali
Tigrinya
Urdu
Punjabi

 

What do I do if the FBI or DHS request interview with me?

  • Contact a Lawyer before you speak with DHS or the FBI!
  • You have the right to a lawyer before you meet with anyone from DHS or the FBI.
  • You can decline the interview, but this may be viewed as suspicious in some cases.

Note: If you receive any document from the FBI/DHS, we recommend you contact an attorney.

Free legal assistance available at:

Tahirih Justice Center[email protected]

Human Rights First: [email protected] / (713) 955-1360

YMCA International Services: Free walk-in legal clinic every Wednesday, 9am – 3pm at 6300 Westpark Dr., Suite 600

Catholic Charities: Call 713-874-6570 for the dates of free informational sessions (charlas) at 2900 Louisiana St.

Who are the FBI/DHS and why do they want to interview me?

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a government agency that is responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws and keeping the borders secure. DHS tries to keep communities safe by identifying people who are doing things that the U.S. government does not support, such as supporting organizations or people by sending money to groups overseas that the U.S. government does not support.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a government agency that monitors internal U.S. security and fights domestic and international terrorism.
  • The FBI or DHS may interview asylum seekers or refugees with regard to general community engagement or something potentially concerning in your history before you came to the U.S. or since you came to U.S., and they need additional information.
  • The FBI or DHS may ask you for one or multiple interviews; neither of these is necessarily a bad indication.

If I agree to the interview, what are my rights?

  • You have the right to have an attorney present. There are legal organizations in Houston that may be able to provide you a free attorney.
  • You have the right to set the time and place for the interview.
  • You have the right to find out the questions they will ask beforehand.
  • You have the right to have an interpreter present. There are legal organizations in Houston that may be able to provide you a free interpreter.
Remember: There is NO automatic deportation – you have many due process and procedural rights, such as the right to attorney (not at government expense), the right to hearing, and more.

What should I do during the interview?

  • Ask to see a badge or business card at the beginning of the interview.
  • Ask the person for their name, title, agency, phone number, and email address. Write it down, and keep a record.
  • Write down what was asked or discussed during the interview. You may also record the interview on your phone instead of keeping written notes.
  • You have a right to refuse to hand over documents
  • If you do not understand the question, seek clarification before answering.
  • You have the right to answer only the questions you feel comfortable answering. No matter what, assume that everything you say is on the record.
  • You can end the interview at any point if it becomes combative, you feel uncomfortable, or you want to speak to an attorney. 

Remember: It is a criminal offense to knowingly lie to an officer.

Can I give to a charity organization without becoming a terror suspect?

  • It depends. You may continue to give money to the causes you believe in, but you should be careful in choosing which charities to support. You should not support charities that are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.[1] Providing financial or other support to groups that the U.S. views as suspect may impact your immigration status and may cause other legal problems for you and your family members.

Is it safe for me to practice my religion in religious institutions or public places?

  • You have a constitutional right to practice your religion. You have the right to go to a place of worship, attend and hear sermons and religious lectures, participate in community activities, and pray in public. Remember, the law is on your side to protect you.
  • If you experience any acts of hatred, contact the police, a refugee resettlement organization, and/or a free legal services organization.

What should I do if I feel unsafe?

  • If someone threatens you or makes you feel your life is in danger, try to get away from them, and call 911 for the police.
  • Inform your resettlement agency for additional support.
  • If your child is bullied at school, inform your child’s school and your resettlement agency.

Where can I find more information?

  • Speak to someone at your resettlement agency
  • Call the Council on American Islamic Relations Houston (CAIR) at 713-838-2247
  • Visit the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative website at www.houstonimmigration.org

[1] For a list of organizations designated as terrorist by the U.S. government, see http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm