Representatives from the St. Paul-based Mexican Consulate gave local immigrants an overview of their rights Wednesday at Northfield Public Library, and advised them of the steps they should take in case they’re taken into custody by federal officials.

The discussion, delivered in English and Spanish, was led by Consul De Mexico Gerardo Guerrero and sponsored by Northfield Public Library. Translation was also provided by the library. 

Those in attendance were apprise of their immigrant, criminal and labor rights. Immigrants can invoke their Fifth Amendment rights, and the only questions they have to answer relate to their name and birthdate. They are not required to answer the door if an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent knocks. The Consulate works with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Labor to correct improper working conditions.

Guerrero said some people are fraudulently presenting themselves as lawyers and then taking the money of immigrants desperate for representation. The Consulate provides free lawyers to immigrants.

Consulate employee Silvia Elena Segovia Trujillo, who works with Mexicans who are arrested and targeted for deportation, said once that takes place, it is difficult to mount a successful defense because of high legal costs. She spoke of the importance of planning to avoid that predicament. The steps she advised immigrants take before being taken into custody include having birth certificates and other personal information in a known location if needed and initially speaking to an immigration lawyer to explain the situation and hear the lawyer’s belief on a plausible outcome.

Consulate services were listed for those in attendance. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases takes place at the consulate. Programs are in place on how immigrants can invest money or open bank accounts. The Consulate works with educational institutions to offer scholarships to prospective students.

Throughout the address, the people who attended were advised to avoid driving while intoxicated, or texting and driving. They were informed of the increased possibility of them being deported after being cited or arrested for such violations.

“We need to take care of ourselves,” Guerrero said.

He said the people who have been targeted for deportation mainly include those with a previous deportation order or a criminal record. Guerrero spoke of the importance of undocumented immigrants having an emergency plan for their children in case they are taken into custody.

He noted the community concern and the recent process the Trump administration has in targeting certain undocumented immigrants for deportation.

Trump issued a mass deportation order that was supposed to begin the weekend of July 14, which was delayed. He then issued another order for expedited deportations. A recent raid carried out by ICE agents in Mississippi resulted in 680 undocumented immigrants being arrested.

Guerrero noted no raids have been conducted locally. He said he has no information that ICE plans to stage a local raid, but he anticipates migratory immigration coming even more into the forefront as 2020 elections near.

“We need to be very alert about this,” he said.

Guerrero spoke highly of Northfield for being the first city in the state to implement municipal identification cards, which allows people to prove their Northfield residency. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has declared a sanctuary church body for immigrants.

Clarification on assistance given to undocumented immigrants and their children was given. While undocumented immigrant parents are not eligible for medical assistance, their children are if they are born in the U.S. because they are automatically citizens.

Following the event, Guerrero spoke highly of how it went. He added it was important for immigrants in attendance to learn the available resources for them and for non-immigrants to learn more about the immigrant community.

“It was a great night,” he said. “It was very important.”

Guerrero said communities are in fear and are nervous about possible deportations. He said although he does not view U.S. government immigration policy as fair, he respects that it is domestic policy.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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