Until last night, Maria Montes De Oca of Kennewick didn't know that everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status, has certain rights.
That's among what she and more than 100 Tri-Citians heard at a Tuesday "Know Your Rights" forum sponsored by the Tri-Cities OneAmerica committee.
The Kennewick forum was held in response to a Jan. 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Ellensburg where 14 people were arrested.
Montes De Oca said in Spanish that the session helped clear up some of the doubts and questions she and others had and provided important information.
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Pasco immigration attorney Tom Roach explained to the crowd that no one has to talk to an ICE officer whether they are approached at home or work unless the officer has either a search or an arrest warrant.
Everyone has the right to remain silent, but part of their responsibility is to answer truthfully if they do decide to talk to officers, Roach said. And they have the right to have an attorney present.
In Ellensburg, ICE was looking for specific people who created fake documents, were criminals, had been deported and returned or had avoided deportation.
But instead, Roach said officers found a man who had been deported 10 years ago and had been a church minister there for a decade. Most of the others arrested had checked the wrong box on an I-9 employment form, and probably hadn't filled out the form themselves, he said.
"This could be you guys tomorrow," Roach said.
Syndee Sauceda, Catholic Family & Child Service administrative manager, told families in Spanish to have an emergency plan in case parents don't come home. That includes contacts in case of an emergency and who will take care of their children.
Although it's difficult, she said it is vital to give kids age-appropriate information so that they are prepared in an emergency.
If children enter the state's Child Protection Service system, it can be difficult for parents to get their children back, explained Marco DeOchoa, a CPS investigator.
And, he said, parents who are detained by immigration agents should take their kids with them if deported.
Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org