Immigration, Know Your Rights- What you need to know

By Siani Nunez
September 22, 2021

The Wolfington Center hosted a “Know Your Rights” workshop focusing on immigration enforcement in partnership with Natalia Ruggiero, an associate attorney for Palladino, Isbell & Casazza firm. 

“Coming from a family who are immigrants, I was lucky enough to be born here with the efforts of my parents who emigrated from Bangladesh,” said Bushra Islam, senior business management major. “I think Cabrini does a great job in supporting immigrant students,” Islam said.

The biggest takeaways were to understand your rights to protect yourself from discrimination, know the principles of ICE and prepare for encounters with ICE and the police.

In quiet, lights-out Wolfington Center, a presentation was given by Ruggiero, who attended through zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 15 while students and faculty listened in-person together. Eight people attended the event, including Dr. Ray Ward, director of the wolfington center and speaker Natalia Ruggiero. 

Know Your Rights workshop
Attendees Guilherme Lopes, Jemmy Medina Raya and Ray Ward. Photo by Torri Emmitt.

 Ruggiero’s lecture stressed the importance of immigrants to understand that they have rights, even if they are undocumented.

They have the right to remain silent, right to refuse consent to search and the right to an attorney. These are better known as Miranda Rights.

How are undocumented immigrants given these rights? Basic constitutional rights are given to everyone, regardless of their status, as long as they are on U.S. land. Ruggiero says that immigrants should utilize the right to remain silent, which is essential to those who do not speak English.

Cards were given to attendees that stated the Miranda Rights with which they can pass on to immigration officers if encountered by law enforcement.

Ruggiero also elaborated on the basic understandings for sanctuary cities. In cities that identify as sanctuaries, there are certain “limits on cooperation with ICE agents.” Low priority undocumented immigrants are protected from deportation and ICE detainers. Philadelphia, Bucks County and Montgomery County are all considered sanctuary cities. 

The U.S. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  is the “main player” in immigration enforcement, Natalia said. They are an agency within the Department of Homeland Security under the executive branch, meaning the President has the power to control and implement new policies.

ICE’s tactics include home searches, workplace raids, public interactions and pulling over vehicles. If you encounter an ICE agent, they may not be uniformed when you see them; however, they will be armed and carry their ID badges. Ruggiero said that ICE agents can potentially “lie and say they’re regular police.” 

Remember: any interaction with law enforcement can lead to an ICE encounter. In simpler terms, anyone without legal immigration status, with criminal convictions or ICE priority are at risk of an arrest.

For context, a high priority ICE individual has either “been convicted of an offense… intentionally participated in an organized criminal gang…, or poses a danger to national security,” based on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

One listener asked the question, “Are ICE agents able to come into schools?” Ruggiero said no, given that schools function similar to churches (historically seen as sanctuaries against law enforcement). Every child has a right to education and children have the right to not disclose their status.

Ruggiero gave general advice to situations undocumented immigrants can encounter:

If you are arrested, do not sign anything.

In case ICE shows up at your door:

  1. Do not open the door- open the window.
  2. Ask for their ID and warrant. If they do not have one, tell them to leave. If they do, ask to read it to check if it’s valid and signed by a judge.
  3. Disclose your health or home information if they are searching or detaining you.
  4. Record the events and let them know beforehand (PA’s “Two-Party Consent” Law).

If ICE pulls you over in your car, keep your hands on the steering wheel, comply, remain silent and do not look around as it can seem suspicious.

In the event that ICE stops you in public, do not run away or resist. Ruggiero says to copy this statement: “I am invoking my right to remain silent.” You can also ask them, “Am I free to go?” If not, repeat the first statement again.

In political demonstrations such as protests, rallies or marches, Ruggiero urges people to create a safety plan before attending. Learn emergency routes and find out who will be at the event. Make sure to give your contact information to family, friends or an attorney. Turn off fingerprint or face recognition features on your phone and avoid posting photos while you’re there. Avoid carrying ID’s from other countries, too. 

If you are a U.S. citizen and happen to see ICE investigating a potential undocumented immigrant, Ruggiero says that you can help by recording openly and remain near the situation. She said that you can also give advice to guide them through it. “Thankfully under this President, things are getting better,” said Ruggiero. 

As for Cabrini University’s immigration policies, Ray Ward says they fall into a gray area. “I don’t know what [Cabrini] campus’s [immigration/ICE] policies are specifically, but [it brings up an interesting conversation] on where we need to draw the line for federal law- as a campus, we receive federal funding… So what do we do, you know?,” said Ward.


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Siani Nunez

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