The following article appeared Feb 27, 2017 on the lohud.com website.
SPRING VALLEY – In the wake of roundups of undocumented immigrants across the country, Rockland County-based nonprofit organizations are working to make sure the area’s immigrant population is aware of its rights.
State Sen. David Carlucci coordinated a workshop Monday in Spring Valley to connect families with resources that can offer legal aid and social services to immigrants. More than 50 people packed into the Martin Luther King Center, where representatives from organizations such as Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Catholic Charities Community Services of Rockland County, the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County and Konbit Neg Lakay were available to field questions one-on-one.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to crack down on undocumented immigrants with criminal records and who should be targeted by immigration officials. The ensuing raids have cast fear among undocumented families across the country, particularly in New York, which is home to the second largest immigrant population in the United States.
“During a time in our Nation when immigrants are being treated as un-American, this will help our local immigrant community understand their rights and will equip our friends and neighbors with the tools to defend themselves,” Carlucci said of his workshop.
“These are very difficult times, with a lot of anxiety and fear, and we want to alleviate that,” said Martha Robles, executive director of Catholic Charities. “We’re all in this together.”
She went on to stress the importance of being prepared for what to do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up at the door.
Robles’ key points:
Keep all important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and medical records organized and stored in a secure location.
Plan who will take care of children and designate power-of-attorney arrangements so a temporary caregiver can make decisions on the children’s behalf if their parents are arrested or deported.
Don’t open up for agents unless they can show a warrant signed by a judge.
If arrested, you have the right to remain silent and not sign anything until you speak to an attorney.
Do not travel.
However, some attendees said the locals who are the most worried are too frightened to come to these types of forums.
“This conversation is very important, but I don’t see the families who need to be here,” said Porfirio Rodriguez, a longtime teacher at Ramapo High School. “We need to be able to get in touch and gain the trust of those people and make them come here to have these conversations, because the families who need to be here aren’t here.
“They are the ones who need it the most. We don’t need it so much, so we need to reach out to them using people from the community.”
The organizations present Monday — Catholic Charities, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, the Westchester Hispanic Coalition, HASCO and Konbit Neg Lakay — can be contacted privately and said they plan to hold future programs in an attempt to reach the immigrant population.
Carlucci said he remained committed to identifying ways to link the resources with locals, but he hopes those who attend these types of workshops would bring the information back to loved ones.
“I stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters who have contributed so much to the community,” he said.
To find out more about the Legal Aid Society and how you can support their work, call (845) 634-3627, or visit their website at www.legalaidrockland.org.