Immigrant Advocates Offer Advice Amid Growing Uncertainty

As agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up undocumented aliens in raids across the county this weekend, a forum in Leesburg sought to provide more information about immigrants’ rights and local support resources.

The Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera holds the sessions each month as part of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church’s community outreach. The topic has been of greater concern since November’s presidential election and growing uncertainty over the nation’s immigration policy.

Saturday’s forum was attended by representatives from 15 community organizations that have interactions with immigrant residents, as well as several non-English speaking immigrants who were hoping to take information back to their neighborhoods. A representative of U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock’s office and Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk also attended.

The presenters were M. Lucero Ortiz, an attorney who specializes in immigration and family law, and Jasmine Moawad-Barrientos, of CASA of Maryland.

Attorney M. Lucero Ortiz, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, explains U.S. immigration law during a workshop in Leesburg on Saturday.

Ortiz provided an overview of the evolution of U.S. immigration policies, dating back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The number of undocumented immigrants has increased sharply since President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty as subsequent policy changes have led to years-long waits for visas.

Acknowledging heightened states of fear and uncertainty among immigrants in recent months, Ortiz said that many have lived in fear of being sent to their home countries every day for decades. But the desire to work and provide better lives for their families is stronger than that fear.

“You can’t separate immigrants from the economy. Immigrants make the world go ‘round,” she said. She also said that, contrary to the popular stereotype, most of the immigrants are paying taxes—often more than the richest Americans, the 1 percent.

“Thousands of people have died on the border because they want to work,” she said.

Ortiz said that raids by immigration enforcement officers are not new under President Donald Trump’s administration; raids also occurred during the terms of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. What is new, Ortiz and Moawad-Barrientos said, is that it is unclear what level of enforcement is being pursued now. Past efforts have largely targeted violent criminals and employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

They advised families with undocumented members to plan for the worse-case scenario by having someone authorized to act with power of attorney to care for children and other family matters in case they suddenly are detained or deported.

Another key piece of advice was knowing the phone number for an attorney, but Velez-Rivera said there appear to be few legal resources in Leesburg and Loudoun to provide the assistance and he urged the participants advocate greater support.

“The positive thing is we’ve begun,” he said.

3 thoughts on “Immigrant Advocates Offer Advice Amid Growing Uncertainty

  • 2017-02-13 at 5:20 pm

    Ortiz is providing knowingly false information about the tax rates of illegal immigrants.

    Has it ever crossed the minds of these folks to tell the illegal aliens to follow the laws of the United States? You know, to obey the rules of the place in which you want to assimilate.

    Or maybe Ortiz can go to India, China, and Africa and tell 100’s how to illegally immigrate if she thinks we need open borders.

    Pure hypocrisy.

  • 2017-02-14 at 7:36 am

    LoudounNow can we please call these individuals what they are and that is ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. They are here in our country illegally and they are undocumented meaning that they are illegal. They do not have rights. They have not earned the rights to be in our country. They are breaking the law. Imagine this. I put my house on the market and have to move. A person decides to move into my house that has yet to be sold. Would your paper call them an UNDOCUMENTED HOMEOWNER? How about this. My car is in the driveway of my house and I leave the car unlocked one night. Someone takes advantage of this and takes my car for a joy ride. Would we call this person that stole my car and UNDOCUMENTED CAR OWNER? No, they are illegal and need to be arrested. As is the case with anyone in our country, ILLEGALLY, they need to be deported because they are here…ILLEGALLY! Yes, they are here illegally. They are not documented which means they have not been vetted. Does this seem safe to your paper and to these people that are defending them. Maybe your paper should hire some of these undocumented people. Wait, you can’t do that because that would be…..ILLEGAL! Amazing. You must get you talking points from George Soros who I would not be surprised is funding your paper to deliver some form of liberal spin.

  • 2017-02-14 at 12:04 pm

    How does one pay taxes, without a social security number? Seriously, how does that work?

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