On Wednesday December 7, the Latino Student Union (LSU) and its parent organization LUCHA hosted an event to help answer questions and mitigate concerns Latino families had following the election of Donald Trump. The questions mainly revolved around the immigration status of the families of Los Altos students.
“There were a lot of questions, there were a lot of concerns, [because] kids didn’t know what’s going to happen,” counselor Ariel Rojas said. “They had questions about whether or not their status was going to be taken away, and some kids had questions about [whether] their parents would be deported.”
The event, held from 6 to 7 p.m. and conducted entirely in Spanish, consisted of a panel of legal experts from several different community organizations and private attorneys. Rojas and Counselor Jacob Larin acted as moderators and read questions submitted by the audience out loud to the panel. The members of the panel took turns answering the questions.
Immigration attorney Tess Feldman, who works for Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), a nonprofit organization, was a prominent voice in the discussion.
“A lot of questions are from families who want to know what’s coming next,” Feldman said. “A lot of questions tonight were about cases they’ve had in the past, [and] they want to know a little bit more information about what’s going to happen with those cases now.”
In addition to CLSEPA, other organizations represented included the Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) and Immigration Services of Mountain View.
LSU President and senior Yesenia Gutierrez, who attended with her family, described some specific steps lawyers instructed the families to take if they were confronted by immigration authorities.
“The immigration lawyers said to stay calm — you have your rights, and unless an immigration officer has a warrant or something they can’t do anything to you,” Yesenia said.
Members of the audience were also given red cards that serve to protect undocumented immigrants and detail the constitutional rights they are entitled to.
“With these red cards, if I were undocumented and I see an immigration officer knock on my door, I have the right not to open the door and I can just slide this [card] under the door,” Yesenia said. “Many people who come into the country don’t know what their rights are, and the fact that the lawyers said they can use this gave a huge relief to my parents, who didn’t know.”
A prominent issue mentioned frequently as a part of Trump’s new policy changes is the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants immigration protection to students who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and have no serious criminal record. Because it is an executive order, Trump has the power to cancel DACA as soon as he takes office on January 20. If it is repealed, lawyers instructed the audience to remain in the U.S. and take certain measures to ensure their safety.
“If Trump does repeal DACA, we should all stay where we are and not leave the country,” Yesenia said. “We don’t know if there’s going to be another policy put into place, so many students right now who are not under DACA are trying to fill out the paperwork to be under it before the policy ends.”
Although the lawyers gave a large amount of relevant advice, there remain some unknowns related to Trump’s lack of specific policy platforms that will not be sufficiently answered until at least when he takes office.
“This is a really unique time for people with immigration cases,” Feldman said. “With the uncertainty of the political climate that will change in January, we don’t have a lot of concrete information about what’s coming that will affect a lot of people throughout the country.”
Feldman stressed the importance of being informed on the topic of immigration, especially for undocumented residents.
“There are a lot of community organizations in Los Altos and the Santa Clara County area that can help families and students get access to information, educate them and empower them with the rights and opportunities available to them,” Feldman said. “My advice would be to take advantage of those resources and get as much information as you can, because all of the families and the students who were at the meeting have that right.”
Yesenia, whose mother is an undocumented immigrant, said the event reassured many of her fears regarding Trump’s impending presidency.
“When I first heard that Trump had won, I was very devastated,” Yesenia said. “Will my mom be taken care of less, or will she be seen less because she’s not documented? But once the event happened, the immigration lawyers made us feel better knowing we still had our rights.”