MARYSVILLE – They looked worried.
They are immigrants in a foreign land – many don’t know the language, the culture, the laws or their rights.
One girl told her mom not to go because she was afraid she wouldn’t come back.
If they thought it was a ruse to round up immigrants and deport them, they probably got sick to their stomachs when they saw police there.
But Police Chief Rick Smith put them at ease.
“You matter to the police department,” Smith told about 50 people at the Know Your Rights: Immigrant Information Parent/Community Meeting Wednesday night at The Living Room Coffee House.
“Our hearts are with our people. We are after criminals. Do not worry. You can come and talk to us,” Smith said to appreciative applause.
Fire Chief Martin McFalls added, “You can approach us as neighbors.”
Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg said, “These are troubling times. But our main mission is to ensure your children are safe and happy in school.”
Berg explained the district helped put on the event because it wants immigrants to know their legal status does not matter at school. She said rumors are flying around, and she’s heard reports of kids crying in school because they are afraid their parents won’t be there when they go home.
“Parents are not showing up right now” at school events like they once were, Berg added.
Immigration lawyer Carol L. Edward came to clear up the rumors.
“This is a scary time,” she told the mostly Spanish-speaking audience through an interpreter. “People are afraid. We want you to understand the laws. It’s not as bad as you’re hearing on the news everyday.”
The attorney said Immigration Court can take years. If it would be a “tragedy to the family if detained” work permits can be granted. To people who want to know why illegals don’t just become legal citizens, Edward explained that can take 20 years because of limits set by government.
“They didn’t have the same rules to make it so hard” years ago, she added.
Contacting a lawyer is key.
“We can make it possible to stay,” she said, adding 300 lawyers in the state have volunteered to help.
It can be problematic without a lawyer.
“Immigration laws are strange” and complex, she said.
Edward said she feels sorry for children of immigrants because they have to be perfect. They can’t get in trouble like other kids.
“It’s important they don’t do anything. It brings attention to the parents,” she said.
To conclude, Berg emphasized that school is a safe place from immigration officials.
“Please keep close to us,” she said.
Wendy Volosin, originally from Peru, knows firsthand the angst an immigrant feels in a new country.
Volosin, family liaison with the Marysville School District, understands the uneasiness immigrants have as government discusses possible changes under President Trump.
“I’ve been in that situation,” she said. “I’m passionate about” helping others.
MSD schools Superintendent Becky Berg also is concerned. She wants all students to feel safe so they can focus on learning.
So Volosin and Anthony Craig, cultural director with the district, put on a Know Your Rights: Immigrant Information Parent/Community Meeting Wednesday night at The Living Room Coffee House.
Volosin is concerned misinformation is being spread in the immigrant community, so she wants to educate them on their rights.
Craig, too, said his No. 1 goal is to support them.
“Families hear things so they don’t focus on school,” he said of kids. “We don’t want them overly burdened by their immigrant status.”
Volosin was worried that not many would come to the event because they don’t trust government. About 50 did show up. But she and Craig were very cautious in their approach.
“They may be overly nervous,” Craig said. “I want to error on the side of caution.”
But the overwhelming message being put out by the district is that all students are welcome, Berg has said. The district is “supportive and inclusive.”
Volosin said she wants all immigrant families to know that school districts can’t ask about immigration status under federal law. She said families hear about situations in other states and other districts, and they form their own versions of the news, which leads to “mass worry.”
So part of the program was informing immigrant parents what their rights are. Information was handed out advising them what to do in certain situations. A lawyer was there to explain their rights and answer questions.
Volosin said 38 languages are spoken in the MSD, and there are services available to help them. She said some are documented, some are not and some are in the process.
“Some don’t know the process,” she said, adding it is costly and takes a long time to become a citizen.
Volosin said she hears people all the time criticize illegals for not taking the extra steps to become legal. But it “costs a lot of money, and some people are low income.”
Also an immigrant has to pass tests in U.S. History and the history of the state where they want to reside. Volosin, like many others, got a green card first so she could live here two years to study up. Volosin said immigrants settle in the U.S. for many reasons. For some it can be because relatives are here. Others want the “American Dream” with a good education, job and house. Others “run away from their own country because if they stay they will be killed,” she said.
Here are some of the recommendations made by immigration attorney Carol L. Edward:
•Have a plan, not just if immigration officials come, but for any emergency.
•You do not have to answer questions. You have the right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. That’s better than lying to law enforcement.
•Seek advice, such as from the Northwest Immigration Rights Group or Catholic Community Services. •Police cannot detain or search you unless they have reasonable suspicion you committed a crime or that you have a weapon.
•Immigration Customs Enforcement or border patrol can’t just come into your home. “Tell your children not to just open the door to anyone,” she said.
•Normally officials won’t deport someone unless they are a criminal or there already are deportation orders for that person. Parents of U.S. citizens also are not often deported.
•Carry U.S. documentation for protection. “Do not carry with you proof that you are a Mexican citizen,” she said. That’s important because this area is within 100 miles of the Canadian border, so an immigrant who has lived here less than two years can face “expedited removal.” •”If you are afraid to go back because something will happen to you” tell officials and you can seek asylum.
•Do not go in and out of the country if you only have a green card because that status can change easily.