Dealing with immigration can be confusing and complicated.
To help people navigate the system, the City of Redmond partnered with the Eastside Legal Assistance Program (ELAP) and Lake Washington School District (LWSD) to host a forum to provide people with information on the current immigration situation.
The event was held March 22 at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center in downtown and featured a number of speakers who discussed various aspects of the issue, ranging from local law enforcement policies, to legal advice from immigration attorneys. Members of the audience also had the opportunity to ask the speakers questions.
Feeling safe in the community
The evening’s first featured speaker was Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson.
She said while the Redmond Police Department (RPD) does occasionally interact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it would only be on major situations such as felony cases. RPD does not get involved in immigration-related cases, Wilson said.
“We do not ask immigration status of anyone we come in contact with,” she said.
When the question was raised about other agencies’ policies, Wilson said she can only speak for RPD but does know that some other jurisdictions in the area have similar approaches.
She said it is important for people in the community to be able to come forward and speak to the police when they need help and they need to feel safe doing so.
Schooling for all students
Following Wilson came Dr. Traci Pierce, superintendent for LWSD, who discussed the district’s diverse enrollment.
“We’re very proud of our diverse community,” she said, adding that there are 112 different languages spoken among LWSD’s students.
Pierce discussed the district’s “every student future ready” mission and how that extends beyond just academics. She emphasized how each of their students has the right to a free education that is safe and civil without having to worry about bullying or discrimination.
When it came time for questions from the audience, there were concerns raised about bullying in schools and what the district is doing to prepare for such situations.
“It’s an ongoing commitment,” Pierce replied.
She said they will continue to implement the policies they have in place if and when situations arise.
Pierce also told attendees that the district cannot legally know a student’s immigration status and that a recent Supreme Court ruling states that all students — even those who are undocumented — have the right to attend public schools.
In addition to Wilson and Pierce, immigration attorneys Joan Thomas and Jay Stratton also spoke at Wednesday’s event, offering legal advice on what people should do if they are dealing with immigration issues ranging from going through the process of getting a green card, to deportation.
Thomas began her remarks by addressing the executive orders that have come down from the federal government. While President Donald Trump’s orders have been challenged by a number of courts throughout the country and are not currently in effect yet, she said people should anticipate more changes to come and to be prepared and she encouraged people to stay up to date on what’s happening, either through the news or attending community forums such as Wednesday’s event.
Thomas discussed the different paths of citizenship, who can be deported and who is more vulnerable in such situations.
In the case of deportation, Stratton said there is not much they can do as attorneys to help if an individual wishes to re-enter the United States.
“Deportation is a pretty big deal,” he said, adding that a person can expect to wait 10 years or more before they can return to this country.
Thomas also went over some things people can do if ICE comes to their home or workplace.
Thomas advised the audience that if ICE pays them a visit at home, they do not have to open their door and can ask the ICE agents to pass their warrant under the door. ICE agents cannot enter a home without permission.
In response to this, the question was raised about what to do if a minor opens the door and lets ICE agents into the home.
Stratton said this is a problem as ICE believes this implies consent, whereas he and other immigration attorneys would view the situation as unlawful entry and file a motion to suppress anything as a result — meaning anything that happens would be excluded from the case.
Thomas said everyone — even undocumented immigrants — has the right to remain silent and can plead the Fifth Amendment. Thomas also advised that people not show ICE agents fake documents and not to lie.
If ICE comes to a person’s workplace, Thomas said they should not panic or run away. Again, she said, they have the right to remain silent and should not lie or show any false documents.
And if an individual is detained, Thomas said they have the right to speak to an attorney as well as the right to contact their consulate.
“You want to be sure you’re getting the right advice,” she said.
Thomas said people should also make sure they know and understand any documents they sign.