- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CHAMBLEE, Ga. | To guard against family separations - a widely decried effect of recent large-scale immigration raids in workplaces - social workers and activists are urging undocumented immigrants to put together emergency kits similar to the kind emergency officials encourage people to keep in case of fire or natural disaster.

“Information is power,” said Sonia Parras Konrad, a lawyer in Iowa who helped undocumented immigrants in the wake of a raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant in May. “If they know their rights and are prepared, they can be more in control of their lives and what happens to them.”

The immigrants’ kits include passports for U.S.-born children, contact information for an attorney, information on their legal rights and other material that can keep families together or help relatives retrieve a last paycheck.

While having all the proper documents in order, knowing one’s rights and drawing up careful plans of what to do in the event that a family member is detained won’t likely prevent a deportation order if a person is here illegally, it can provide some peace of mind by ensuring that families know what to do.

Immigrant rights activists in different parts of the country said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seems to have stepped up its efforts in the last year or so, leading to more deportations.

That seems to be supported by ICE removal numbers that have increased every year since 2003, the earliest year for which the agency provides numbers.

“Mixed-status families and undocumented families are living with a level of fear that has been unprecedented in the last 20 or 30 years,” said Dani Martinez-Moore, who coordinates a network of immigrant advocates for the North Carolina Justice Center.

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