Know Your Rights training keeps immigrants safe with police

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Geo Ordoñez, RAICES volunteer and internship coordinator, says people can protect themselves by knowing their rights when it comes to encountering law enforcement or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) April 18 during a Know Your Rights training session in the employee lounge. She spoke to students, staff, faculty and people from the community about SB4 and ICE. Brianna Rodrigue

RAICES provides a list of important immigration documents to keep safe in one location.

By Brianna Rodrigue

In May 2017, the Texas Legislature passed the SB4 law, which has affected immigrants in many cities. The law went into effect September 2017.

Geo Ordoñez, RAICES volunteer and internship coordinator, spoke to students, staff, faculty and people from the community during a Know Your Rights training session April 18.

She discussed how to deal with the SB4 law and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

MOVE San Antonio partnered with RAICES to provide this session.

Ordoñez has worked for RAICES for three months. She wanted to work with RAICES to share her knowledge with others to keep them informed and help them “live happier lives.”

“Immigration has always been a big factor in my family’s lives,” she said. “Being only the second to graduate from college, I felt that I needed to dedicate myself to empowering members of my community.”

Ordoñez said SB4 allows law enforcement officers to question residents about immigration status.

She said to avoid driving to reduce the risk of getting pulled over.

Ways to reduce the risk of encountering police is to keep registration up to date, fix broken tail lights, obey traffic laws and keep all forms of identification.

If detained, don’t answer any questions about immigration status and ask for an immigration attorney.

“When it comes to police and ICE, police and ICE will assume you do not know your rights, but we are here to inform you of your rights,” she said.

It’s important to prepare for a situation when dealing with law enforcement and ICE by meeting with an immigration attorney, carry a valid immigration identification and to not commit any crimes.

“Consult with an attorney before anything happens,” she said. “Be honest and prepare to share all the details of your family’s situation.”

It will be a sensitive discussion, but it’s important to give information to the attorney, she said.

Ordoñez shared scenarios on what an undocumented individual should do if ICE knocked on their door.

First thing to do is not open the door. If family members are in the home, put them all in one room and have one member interact with ICE without opening the door.

Next, ask if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they do, ask for them to slide the warrant under the door without opening it or show you the full paper through the window. ICE will not have a warrant sometimes, she said.

“What we see is that ICE has been using a warrant for one house and then they go show it to the next house,” Ordoñez said. “You want to see that your name is on it and that your correct address is on it. If any of the information is wrong, you at that point do not open the door.”

A warrant should have the name of the person being arrested, a judge’s signature, a dated signature and a stamp. A warrant will lead to an individual being detained. The bond can range from $1,000-$15,000, she said.

The next thing to do is to say nothing. Wait to speak to an attorney, she said.

It’s important to post the immigration attorney’s phone number somewhere in the house, memorize the number and keep the business card on hand. Also, leave the attorney’s number with a family member or a close friend. If detained, an individual’s cell phone will be taken away and an officer will most likely not give the individual access to the attorney’s number.

If detained, do not sign any documents without consulting an immigration attorney and do not lie.

“I know it can be scary, but the important thing is that when showing the police officer that you know your rights, you’re showing that you definitely know what is going on,” Ordoñez said.

Ordoñez said to keep every important immigration document in one safe place in the house for easy access in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone in the household knows where the documents are located. A checklist of important documents to keep together is here.

When it comes to seeing an altercation between a law enforcement officer and an individual, Ordoñez said to make eye contact with them, announce that filming will take place, call local immigration advocacy groups or hotlines, and do not interfere with the situation.

Ask or look for the name and badge number of the officer. Get a good look at both the officer and the individual’s face.

Ordoñez said people who are interested in learning more about their rights when encountering with law enforcement or ICE should reach out to RAICES and MOVE San Antonio.

“Knowing your rights in my opinion is one of the most productive ways to fight back and prepare for the future,” she said.

Another Know Your Rights training session will be 6-7:30 p.m. May 1 at RAICES Community Education Center, 802 Kentucky Ave.

For more information about RAICES, visit their website at


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