The anti-deportation movement, which has been inching toward the mainstream as of late (against all Arizona odds), just made its boldest move yet:
A group of DREAM Act diehards released a manual called "Education Not Deportation: A Guide for Undocumented Youth in Removal Proceedings" this morning.
It's nothing that immigrants' rights groups haven't said before --
But it's more accessible, conversational and comprehensive. And since it's directed at undocumented youth who had no choice but to grow up without papers -- who came to America "at an age when they were too young to understand the consequences of their actions" -- it's more likely to inspire sympathy in the hostile reader.
Prerna Lal, the DREAM Act posterchild from San Francisco who's currently in the middle of her own deportation proceedings, is vetting the guide all over her blog and Twitter today. Here, some of its more basic pointers:
After being served with the Notice to Appear, you will be scheduled for a court date. ... If you miss your hearing, the immigration judge may order you deported in your absence. So, it is critical that you keep your address up to date with the court.
You should most definitely have an attorney to represent you in Court. [And if you can't find one by your first court date:] You should not answer any questions, particularly questions about your foreign birth or how you entered the United States. ... Ask the immigration judge for a continuance. To make your request stronger, you should document your efforts to obtain an attorney before the hearing. Keep track of the names and dates when you talked to attorneys.
If you are eligible to pursue [some form] of immigration relief, ie. Cancellation of removal or Motion to Suppress, you should do so with the advice of an immigration attorney. ... For example, if you believe that ICE violated your constitutional rights when they arrested you, you might want to think about a Motion to Suppress evidence of alienage.
Requesting deferred action, which can only be done once removal proceedings have been initiated, should only be a strategy of last resort for a DREAM Act student when s/he does not have any other options left... and is facing an order of removal by an Immigration Judge.
From there, authors suggest that student aliens get letters of recommendation from teachers to use in court, contact local politicians with heart-wrenching anecdotes and "go public" -- aka, talk to the media, post videos to YouTube and pass around a petition.
A couple telling excerpts:
Immigration Customs and Enforcement ("ICE") has the power to stop anyone's deportation at any moment, however they only use this 'discretion' for cases that are very compelling. Your job is to show ICE that your case is compelling and worthy of discretion, i.e. deferred action.
Search your facebook profile, old albums and find some pictures that define you. By using pictures you intend to show the public that you are just like them, or maybe get them to feel as if you are like a friend they know and how could they sit back while a friend is going through this situation? Be creative. The goal of your story and picture is to make a personal connection.
During a recent case a DREAM student focused a lot on their love for animals, as a result many stepped up to help just because they too were animal lovers.
Kind of makes the whole thing into a joke, doesn't it? The fact that college students who grew up in the U.S. should have to recite their canned sob story at all becomes a ridiculous, expensive waste of time. In other words, the manual also acts as an advertisement for the federal DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to undocumented students who've been accepted to a U.S. university.
Maybe then we could avoid the media-circus section of this guide, admittedly making us feel like complete tools with tips like "Reporters are not your friends" and "Never go off the record."
But we gotta admit: They're kind of right.
Too bad the guide is only for those immigrants who've had the perseverance and wherewithal to climb their way into our higher-education system. In the windowless border houses of Tijuana and Mexicali, we've heard a trail of horror stories, from fathers deported for selling crafts on the subway to teens picked up while walking home from work ("suspicious behavior"), then kicked out of the country without so much as their wallet or a call to let Mom they're OK. (Well, as OK as they can be.)
As long as Secure Communities is in place, this'll continue to be the norm. But at least some options are starting to open up for the DREAMers.