Guatemalan Consulate Hosting Legal Forum for Central American Immigrants Amid Ongoing Raids

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Enough of the ugly border wall, let's look at the beautiful scenery of Guatemala (despite her grave flaws). Here's a piece of Lake Atitlán. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Enough of the ugly border wall, let's look at the beautiful scenery of Guatemala (despite her grave flaws). Here's a piece of Lake Atitlán.

In lieu of the federal government's plans to continue apprehending and deporting immigrant families from Central America, the Guatemalan consulate in Tucson is hosting a legal forum this weekend to ensure Guatemalan and Central American citizens are prepared to face any interaction with immigration officials.

The Department of Homeland Security raids began on the first weekend of 2016, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents coming to the homes of more than 120 asylum-seekers to arrest them. These immigrants were denied refuge in the U.S., and were later issued removal orders.

Oftentimes, immigrants do not have immediate access to legal counsel, and they end up complying to orders that they don't must obey, and that could further harm their cases—many times resulting in their immediate deportation. 

"The problem with any type of legal situation that involves immigration is that, for instance, your neighbor or friend turns out to be an 'expert' in law and tells the person affected what to do, without really knowing anything about [immigration] laws," Guatemalan Consul in Tucson Carlos Enrique de León López says.

At the legal clinic, local immigration attorney Claudia Arévalo will discuss everything from the importance of showing up to court dates, whether ICE agents have the right to enter a person's home or not at the event of a raid, and what undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children should do with their kids in the case they are deported. 

It's about knowing "[the questions] we should answer and the ones we should not, because they could affect an immigration case even more," de León López says. "[If deportation] is definitely an event that cannot be avoided, [having the information] of what documents [people] should readily have for family members [in the U.S.] and their U.S.-born children, so that the kids don't have any issues at school, for instance."

He emphasizes that parents of U.S. citizen children should always issue a Guatemalan passport for their kids, so that in the event of their deportation, the Guatemalan consulate can aide them. Also, parents should prepare documents that authorize another adult to take care of their children. 

Immigration rights advocacy groups, such as the National Immigration Law Center, have issued tips in English and Spanish, to also make sure migrants know their rights. The law center advises people to remain silent, ask to speak to a lawyer, and to not sign any documents without first speaking with a reliable attorney.

The legal forum is taking place Saturday, Jan. 23 at First  Christian Church, 740 E. Speedway Blvd., from 10 a.m. to noon. There will be breakfast for all of those who attend. For more information, call 398-7301.

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