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New Haven Central American Community Speaks Out Against Immigration Raids

Cassandra Basler

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has raided immigrant communities in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas this week. The agency plans to deport more undocumented Central American women and children who’ve come to the U.S. since 2014. Immigrant rights advocates in New Haven protested the deportations on Wednesday.

Volunteer actors from the immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción used  street theater to teach people their rights in dealing with immigration. They showed about 50 advocates and undocumented residents how to engage with immigration police.

Michael Wishnie, Deputy Dean for Experiential Education and Director of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale University said this civil rights information is vital.

“Immigration doesn’t want people to know that you have a right to keep your door closed, unless they present a warrant," he said. "You have a right to remain silent if you are questioned. You have a right to seek a lawyer if they start to detain you. There are things people can do.”

Wishnie said the last time ICE raided New Haven was eight years ago. He says 32 residents were taken from their homes.

“The immigration agents came to private homes, without any warrants, and they entered those homes without the consent of the residents," he said. "And that’s why the courts later said the raids were illegal, and they dismissed the removal cases. And the federal government settled cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments to people.”

Wishnie said he’s helped 30 of those 32 people stay in the U.S. because immigration agents violated their rights.

After the play, 16-year-old Ivan, who did not want to give his last name, from Central America, said he feels more prepared.

“I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know," he said. "Now I’m more, like, more calm that we know our stuff, that we know our rights. And I hope that immigration doesn’t come.”

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said she has no reason to believe immigration agents plan to raid the city. Harp says in the meantime, residents shouldn’t fear city officials.

“New Haven police officers, school district employees, and other city workers, do not and will not act to enforce federal immigration law,” she said.

Harp said if immigration agents do come to New Haven, no city officials will help them.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that he recognizes the pain that deportations may cause families, but he must enforce the law.

ICE could round up approximately 200 women and children in Connecticut who fled violence in Central America, according to Unidad Latina en Acción.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.