Immigrants: Know Your Rights

by Grace Frunk, Jillian Felker, Madsion Marko, Angel Terry

What is DACA?

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA is designed to help undocumented youth, who meet certain requirements, obtain temporary immigration protections such as work permits, and protection from deportation. “Its really hard for people to get all this documentation if they were out of school for a long time and then, now it’s almost a ten year requirement. In June it will be ten years that they have to show all the documentation and all they get out of this is a work permit that only lasts for 2 years.” Said Michele Suarez.
The Northwest Immigrant rights project (NWIRP) holds free workshops in Wenatchee and Seattle. These workshops help explain DACA requirements, and help individuals apply. It is mandatory to have an appointment to attend a free legal clinic; these clinics are for volunteers to help fill out forms for renewals.
Please note: President Trump threatened to remove the DACA program within the first 100 days of his presidency. Although Trump has yet to remove the DACA program, NWIRP does not recommend that new applicants apply for the DACA program. Individuals may apply for DACA at their own risks. “We are advising people, if you have any criminal history, Don’t apply, because there is a huge risk. It’s not just getting denied, but you can be placed in removal proceedings, meaning you might have immigration court and be deported.” Said Suarez.
“I have literary met people who, came here when they were eight months and have never left the United States. And now, they are in their early twenties and if they were deported…they would be going to a country they never knew… That is what I primarily work in, Deferred Action or Childhood Arrival, to help. A lot of people have DACA now, but there is still people who are eligible and under this administration, it is very difficult because Trump said he was going to end that program that Obama started. So then, what’s going happen with the million young adults who are like your age (high school aged). It’s literary taking you to a different country. As far as your roll, just knowing, and educating because that’s the best. Starting conversations with people don’t know…A lot of people even don’t that non-citizens or you can call them undocumented immigrants have the right to remain silent if ICE tries to approach them… There are just these basic constitutional rights in our constitution that says all persons; it doesn’t say you have to be a U.S Citizen.” Said Suarez.

Vawa Unit: (survivors of domestic violence)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides representation to immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence. These survivors are looking for immigration benefits. The primary cases that the VAWA Unit handles includes U Visa Petitions; T Visa Petitions; VAWA Self-Petitions; and Petitions for Waiver to Remove Conditions on Residency; as well as Removal (Deportation) Defense in Immigration Court.
VAWA and Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) work to guarantee that a person’s immigration status does not make them dependent on their abusers. There are four groups of immigrant survivors who are protected by these laws:
Victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and their families;
Spouses, children, and parents of abusive United States citizens or lawful permanent residents;
Immigrant children in foster care who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned;
Immigrant survivors of violence who are in removal (deportation) proceedings.

Youth Immigrants’ Rights:

Immigrant youth have the right to avoid/escape mistreatment, such as abandonment, abuse, neglect, or anything other form of mistreatment by a parent. Special Immigrant Juveniles Status (SIJS) provides relief to children and youth who deal with mistreatments such as the ones listed above. You are eligible to apply for SIJS, if a state juvenile court determines that you cannot be reunified with the parent(s) who have abused, abandoned, neglected or mistreated. The court must also decide that the child should not be returned to their home country. When a child or youth is given SIJS they are then eligible to apply for a green card in the U.S.

Obtaining U.S. Citizenship:

All immigrants have the right to become a U.S citizen. Any immigrant can gain U.S citizenship by meeting the requirements as a lawful permanent resident. An immigrant may apply to become a U.S citizen five years after they become a lawful permanent resident. If they are married to a U.S citizen, they may apply after three years of being a lawful permanent resident. Immigrants must show that they have good moral character/no-disqualifying criminal record. They must pass a test demonstrating an ability to read, write and speak in English, and have an understanding of the U.S government. Gaining U.S citizenship provides the right to vote in federal, state and local elections. They have greater rights when it comes to filing petitions to reunite with family members. They are secure from being deported.

Facing Removal:

All immigrants have the right to be treated respectfully and with dignity. Detainees, although not limited to, are asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their own country, but end up landing in a detention facility after attempting to across the U.S border. According to the NWIRP website, “Detainees include breadwinners separated from families that depend on them, pregnant mothers, the mentally ill, members of the LGBT community and even U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained.”

Keeping Families Together:

NWIRP helps keep families together. They provide assistance with family visa applications and represent family members facing deportation. Family Visa Workshops are held once a month in Seattle. These provide a 40 minute presentation for an overview of the family-based petition process. Each workshop can have no more than 40 attendants.
To sign up for a Family Visa Workshop and intake call 206-587-4009 if you live in western Washington, Call 509-854-2100 (Granger office) if you live in eastern Washington or 509-570-0054 (Wenatchee office) for individual intakes.

Immigration Raids:

Anyone who does uphold to having lawful immigration status and persons who have status, but have certain criminal convictions are at risk for being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Trump Administrations claims to initially focus on deporting the following people:
People who have pending criminal cases AND/OR prior criminal convictions.
People with final orders of removal.
People who have committed fraud or misrepresentation in applications to the government.
Lastly, anyone who they believe poses a threat to public safety or national security.
To find out what ways ICE could know you, how to protect yourself from raids, and what rights you have when it comes to immigration raids, go to the “know your rights” section on the NWIRP website and scroll down the page until you find “How to Protect Yourself from Immigration Raids.”

Asylum: individuals who gain safety in another country who are escaping persecution in their home countries.

NWIRP’s asylum unit can help with assisting pro se applicants by guiding them through the application process. Every single immigrant has the right to seek a safe haven. International and U.S law entitles people who are in fear of returning to their home country, because of persecution or torture, eligible for asylum.
NWIRP assist with filing applications for asylum with U.S citizenship and they can represent asylum seekers with their interviews and immigration court hearings. NWIRP will defend asylees, asylum-seekers and refugees against deportation from the U.S in Immigration and federal courts.

Cuong Ngo (bingo): Vietnam

It’s almost time I have to say goodbye to Vietnam and moving on to a new country. That means I have to say goodbye to where I was born and grew up for my pass twelve years. All the good and bad memories, they will stay in my heart. I need to move on to a new country, they call United States. Everyone has a dream to live there, and to make their lives better. It makes me feel special. Even though I will miss all that I’ve known.
For the first time, I was on a plane. I was so excited to come to the USA – that feeling was indescribable. It makes me feel like I can fly, for the first time I had arrived in the US. The Seattle airport was huge and beautiful, with lot of people from a different countries in the airport. They were walking fast; I think they cannot wait to see their family, just like my dad wants to see my mom and I. However, my mom and I were lost because we did not know the way and we did not speak English. We were lucky, there was a Vietnamese guy who came to us and helped us out. After we got out of the airport. The first thing we saw was my dad and my dad’s family. They were really happy to see us, then they took us home. When I went outside of the airport, the sky was inky, rainy and cold. I smelled the fresh air from the rain clearing out of the city. In the city where I lived everyone knew they have the light, it means you can see all of the view, it looks like the morning, and in the US they don’t have that much light. I had never been on a freeway, freeway to drive home fast. To me it is like a new world, everything it’s different to me.
After I came to the US, I felt like I already ended one of my chapters of my life. In my new chapter, I have a lot of challenge to face with. My first challenge, was for me to learn how to speak English. My uncle had to find school for me, and what grade I was going in to. This was a hard challenge for my mom and I because, we did not speak English. My English was so bad, the only thing I knew how to say was “hello”, and “how are you?” I was feeling really down. I had no friends that can cheer me up, but finally, I made friends. I still cannot understand what they are trying say. I wondered how I can learn English, how long it takes me to understand and know everything like a person born in United States. I had a feeling that the challenge was getting harder for my mom and I. My mom had to find a job, learn to drive and learn to speak English just like me. We are must put more efforts to study, my parents, and I. They were just worried about money and their jobs too much, but they forgot that they need to study and spend time with their kid, and I think they just worried too much of everything to plan; buying cars and a house. I felt they are carrying a big world on their back just like the Greek God Atlas. Atlas carried the world on his shoulder, and so my mother. She has to worry about her family in Vietnam and worry about all my family problems in the United States. It makes me sad and worried about her. If I work hard more in school and understand all the paper bills, I can help her a little bit with her problem. Maybe it’s not a big thing but at least my mom will not stress out too much about English.
English is really hard, It has many ways to say one idea. I have a feeling that my mom and I had become newborn babies again. We had to start everything over, it was like a newborn baby when they are hungry or they want something they just cry until they get what they want. I had to learn English from the beginning, learning kid’s songs and trying to catch up all the missing work just like other friends. I have to study day and night, because that helped me understand English better, and I had to learn to speak. My parent push me a lot. They always said “You have to study and study, that is the only thing that can help you. No one can really help you in the future.” After one month in elementary school, I got a little better, and then summer came. My uncle made me study vocab words for months, days, weeks, years, and how to ask questions when I don’t understand. Every week he comes over and I have to do quizzes for all the lessons he teaches me. After three months, school began -all my friends were surprised that I got much better when they first saw me. But to me that was not enough, I have try harder and harder. I need to worry about my future, what I’m going to be. At that time, I was feeling down because I could not help my family. I was crying like a baby, just because I could not help and I am frustrated. I was falling and falling but I never give up, I have to stand up and tell myself I can do anything I want. I remember a quote about failing “If you are not failing, you never know what you did wrong and never learn the lesson.” I keep standing up every time I fall, but it helps me learn the lesson of what I did wrong. Just like a ten-month old learning to walk, they might fail but they always stand up by themselves. That is how they learn and also that’s how I learned my lesson. How I can make my dream come true? If I want to make my dream come true, I have to put more effort into my learning and studying.

Anonymous: Nepal

I came from Nepal. My family and I came here because the refugee camp we were staying in was not good—there was lots of fighting and people getting drunk. It was a hard life. At the camp we had no electricity, phones, cars, or technology of any kind. This situation is why we decided to come to the United States. Even though we struggled there, it has not been easy here either. When we came, we didn’t know English. But, there is definitely more freedom here than Nepal. I like going to school, and my favorite subject is science.

Anonymous: Ethiopia

I came to the United States from Ethiopia. I have family here that I came to join. We came in search of a better life and a better education. It took two days to get here by plane, and the rain was a shock. In Ethiopia there is nine months of summer, but here there is a lot of rain. I have been in the United States for two years, and the hardest part was learning English. It was difficult to communicate with people at first. My favorite part about Kentlake has been the students—they are very friendly, and my favorite subject is math. Although I like it here, I do miss my family in Ethiopia.

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