Loyola University Chicago held an immigrant rights workshop Feb. 1 in the midst of the national debate over immigration policy addressed in President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive orders.
The workshop comes after Trump’s contentious Jan. 27 executive order that barred entry into the United States for people from seven “high-risk” and Muslim-majority countries: Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria. Citizens of the former six countries cannot enter for 90 days while Syrian citizens are banned indefinitely.
The workshop brought in speakers from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to focus on three main goals: education, preparation and reporting.
Luis Huerta-Silva, administrative relief regional trainer at ICIRR, along with Loyola students, spoke to a packed room in Cuneo Hall. The event was sponsored by Loyola’s Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the Center for the Human Rights of Children and the Latin American Student Organization.
Loyola student Mia LaRocca emphasized the importance of immigrants being aware of their rights, which include the rights to remain silent and to request a local phone call if they are arrested.
LaRocca also advised immigrants not to open the door for police unless the officers have a search warrant. She said immigrants should comply with orders, however, instead of avoiding the law.
“You running is giving them the idea that you have something to run from,” LaRocca said.
Huerta-Silva told the audience to create action plans to be prepared in case they are taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Such plans include having important identity documents such as birth certificates ready and notarizing (making official) documents that would outline guardianship for a child if the parent is taken into custody.
Trump has also announced plans to build a wall on the Mexico – U.S. border and buckle down on immigration laws and deportation, prioritizing immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
While Huerta-Silva said Trump’s campaign left immigrants, refugees and people of color in fear, he said mass deportation in the United States was an issue in former President Barack Obama’s term.
“[This is a] nonpartisan issue … deportation is a [problem] regardless of presidency,” Huerta-Silva said.
The third goal of the workshop was to encourage community members to report if they experience or witness hate speech, which is not necessarily illegal, or hate crime, which does not necessarily include hate speech.
Loyola’s Office of the Provost sent an email to the Loyola community Feb. 2 advising Loyola students, faculty and staff who are from the countries included in the travel ban to avoid leaving the United States in the next 90 days.
The letter, signed by Provost John P. Pelissero, Provost of the Health Sciences Division Margaret Faught Callahan and Vice Provost of the John Felice Rome Center Patrick M. Boyle, also said the John Felice Rome Center will take in students, faculty or staff who cannot enter the United States but can make it to Italy. The email stated that the Rome Center will provide temporary housing and “general assistance” to those individuals.
Junior Elena Vera is secretary of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and wanted to help host the event in light of recent political occurrences.
“Right now, with everything happening, it was really important because it aligned with LASO’s mission of social justice and … spreading awareness of minorities,” said the international studies and Spanish double major.
Vera said it was beneficial to learn how to help others facing immigration and deportation issues.
“Sometimes, you see things happening and the immigration system isn’t always working in favor of certain groups,” said the 20-year-old. “As a person, you [ask], ‘What can [I] do to help?’”
Sophomore Juliana Tamayo said she attended the workshop because was inspired by her experience on Loyola’s alternative break immersion (ABI) trip to El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. The ABI trip was a mission trip focused on border issues.
“As a first-generation, Latina college student, I thought this was a great opportunity that they had this on campus,” said the 20-year-old. “I thought it was cool that it wasn’t just for students, it was open for the community.”
Tamayo, an international studies and Spanish double major, said she thinks it’s important for non-immigrants to be informed about immigrant rights and hopes to see more members of the Loyola community get involved in supporting undocumented people.
“This is a good start,” Tamayo said, “but we need to get the message across on campus and maybe have other talks like this.”