DACA: Know your rights

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Attorney Kim Le and public defender Kasia Rutledge giving tips for interacting with police and ICE agents. Jake Johnson/PSU Vanguard

On Thursday, April 6, Student Legal Services gave a presentation titled “DACA: Know Your Rights,” aimed at providing insight for immigrants and anyone with questions about how to engage with the police in potentially sticky situations.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients have been qualified to live and work in the United States through the Obama-initiated program. DACA aimed to make it easier for people who were brought into the United States at an early age to live legitimate lives in this country.

SLS Assistant Director April Kusters introduced the presentation and cautioned attendees about the legally sensitive nature of personal questions and individual situations.

“You probably shouldn’t ask personal questions about yourself,” Kusters cautioned attendees. “You’re not in a confidential space right here as there are other folks in the room. I would encourage you instead to come upstairs and have a consultation with one of the attorneys.”

Kim Le, an attorney with SLS, began by defining four essential categories of immigrant statuses: citizens, green card holders, others here legally, and those who are here illegally.

“If you were born here, you’re automatically a citizen; you are a natural born citizen,” Le said. “There are situations where even if you weren’t born here, you could be a citizen.”

Le explained that everyone’s situations are different and encouraged those with questions to take advantage of SLS in order to gain better insight about individual circumstances.

Green card holders are technically known as Lawful Permanent Residents. “Those people [LPRs] are allowed to stay here in the U.S. indefinitely,” Le stated.

The physical card is merely proof of that status. Le explained that if you lose your card or it expires you simply need to apply for a replacement, but you are still allowed to be here.

“[Green card holders should] never ever sign anything that you don’t understand when you are coming in from the border,” Le warned. “Especially a form called an I-407.”

The I-407 form is the Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. By signing, Le says, you are voluntarily giving up your Green Card or LPR status. Le also said that if anyone takes your green card upon returning to the country or otherwise, one should apply for a replacement and consult an attorney.

The third category of immigrants Le discussed were others here legally—including refugees, visa card holders and others who have been legally allowed to be here.

Lastly, there are those who are here illegally.  Everyone has a different personal situation, and Le encouraged anyone who has any questions about their situation, their parents, or their partners should seek confidential advice with SLS.

Kasia Rutledge is a public defender in the Portland area, and her presentation was centered around not giving the police the ammo they need to charge you. Rutledge advised using only three phrases when talking to police you aren’t interested in talking to.

When the police ask questions

“Officer, am I free to go?” If police ask you questions and you don’t want to talk, Rutledge advocates for the use of this simple phrase in response to every question they ask you.

When the police tell you you’re not free to go

“I want a lawyer now.” Rutledge stated that this phrase is to be used when it appears the police no longer just want to talk but appear to be detaining or “stopping” you.

“You don’t need to know a lawyer.” Rutledge continued, explaining that a person doesn’t have to have phone numbers or a public defender as contact. “Saying those words means that the officer is supposed to stop interviewing you or questioning you; until either you have a lawyer standing next to you or you sign a piece of paper, which you should never do, that says, ‘I know I have a right to a lawyer, I invoke my right to a lawyer.”

At this point Rutledge would urge you to stay silent as police are most likely trying to get you to provide evidence against yourself.

“Officer, I do not consent to any searches.”

Rutledge explained that unless the police can see something illegal, hear something illegal or hear what they perceive to be destruction of evidence they require a warrant.

The warrant must be signed by a judge in order to be valid, and technically you are allowed time to verify the legitimacy of that warrant before allowing the police to search.

The rules change when you’re in a vehicle. Rutledge explained that drivers must provide their driver’s license, insurance, and registration. However, Rutledge clarified that unless the police are stopping the car because a passenger has littered, only the driver is being stopped and all passengers are technically free to exit and walk away.

Le came back and joined Rutledge for some closing clarifications about immigration, interactions with ICE, and final pieces of advice.

“If you are not a citizen you should stay away from drugs and anyone who may possess any drugs,” Le cautioned. Even though marijuana is legal in Oregon for adults, ICE operates within federal jurisdictions that still classify cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic.

ICE agents and Portland State University

ICE agents are not supposed to profile people based on appearance. However, they can question people who they believe are committing a crime. Le and Rutledge clarified that ICE agents are not allowed to conduct business on campus and should not be wandering around trying to collect evidence to use against anyone later. If students see ICE agents on campus they should report this to faculty immediately.

SLS is a free resource for PSU students. When speaking with an attorney in SLS you have attorney client privilege that requires the things you disclose to an attorney not be discussed with anyone without your consent.

SLS is hosting walk-ins on Wednesdays from 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at their office in room M343 in SMSU.

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