Monday, May 7, 2007

A Maryland-based immigrant-advocacy group is distributing guidebooks instructing those targeted by federal immigration agents during job-site raids not to cooperate with authorities if they are arrested or detained.

The eight-page, two-color illustrated book lists what rights “people who are not United States citizens” have if detained by immigration agents, details what to do if served with a warrant or charged with a crime, and urges them to remain silent if they are arrested.

The book also says they should refuse to provide authorities with any information about their immigration status.

Included in the book is a “Know Your Rights” card to be cut out and presented to arresting agents, showing that those detained choose to exercise their “right to remain silent, the right to refuse to answer your questions” and to “refuse to sign anything until I consult with my attorney.”

The book, which features cartoonlike drawings of armed black and white police officers escorting Hispanic men in handcuffs and shows babies crying because their fathers are behind bars, is the product of CASA of Maryland Inc., working with other organizations.

Gustavo Torres, CASA’s executive director, has not been available for comment.

Locally, the organization has been involved in the establishment of day-laborer sites for illegal aliens, and helped mobilize more than 500,000 demonstrators at the Washington Monument last year for what it called a “historic immigrant rights march.”

Kim Propeack, the group’s director of community organizing and political action, said CASA has “become aware that some segments of our community” are frightened about the prospect of immigration raids and may avoid interacting with government institutions even if they have nothing to do with immigration.

“We consider providing people with accurate information about their rights fundamentally important to the people we serve, the local community concerned about public safety, and to the national community, which has adopted a bill of rights,” she said.

CASA, originally known as the Central American Solidarity and Assistance of Maryland, is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization established in 1985. According to its latest IRS public-disclosure report filed on April 24, 2006, it received $1.14 million in private donations and $1.64 million in government fees and contracts — $2.78 million in revenue in the year ending June 30, 2005.

Its government funds came from the cities of Baltimore and Takoma Park, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the state of Maryland, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in an effort to gain operational control of the border, has targeted for arrest illegal aliens and the employers who hire them, describing the strategy as key in the fight against illegal immigration and protecting the homeland.

The agency removed nearly 200,000 illegals from the country in fiscal 2006, a 10 percent increase over fiscal 2005. There were more than seven times as many job-site enforcement cases last year than in 2002. Between 12 million and 20 million illegal aliens are thought to be in the United States.

“No one is above the law, and we will continue to aggressively and professionally protect public safety and national security by enforcing the nation’s immigration and customs laws,” ICE spokesman Marc Raimonde said.

Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California, ranking Republican on the House investigations and oversight subcommittee, said distributing materials that teach illegal aliens “how to circumvent the law” suggests that CASA is “aiding and abetting criminal activity.”

Mr. Rohrbacher called the CASA book program “harmful to America.”

Demos Chrissos, who co-founded Citizens Above Party in Maryland to investigate suspected links between illegal immigration and widespread voter fraud, said the book’s distribution warranted an investigation to determine whether taxpayer funds were being used to advance CASA’s agenda.

“Is CASA using the people’s money to fund their own agenda and is that not worthy of an investigation?” Mr. Chrissos said. “I’d like to see how they justify putting out a publication on how to skirt U.S. immigration law.”

The CASA book advises those facing arrest not to lie to immigration agents, warns against using false documents and urges them not to carry papers from another country because they could be used in a deportation proceeding.

The book says that during a job-site raid, immigration agents need to have a warrant signed by a judge and urges those at the site: “Stay calm. Do not run. This may be viewed as an admission that you have something to hide.”

It says immigration agents and police cannot make arrests unless they have a warrant or evidence of nonresidency, adding: “Do not tell immigration your immigration status or where you were born.” If confronted with a search warrant, the book advises: “Do not open the door. Ask the officer to slip the warrant underneath the door” to avoid giving agents the impression that they have “consent” to enter.

The book says those arrested should demand their right to a telephone call, contact their foreign consulate, and be aware that formal charges have to be brought within 48 hours or they have to be released.

It also says government agents may try to “intimidate” those detained into signing documents and warns: “Don’t let yourself be tricked. You may be signing away your right to a hearing before an immigration judge.”

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