Growing Deportation Fears Prompt Congressman Juan Vargas To Hold Town Hall
Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, invited his constituents and a panel of immigration experts to come together on Monday night to talk about immigrant rights. The forum, held at Sherman Heights Community Center, was prompted by growing concerns in the community over the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and increased calls to his office, Vargas said.
“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of fear in this community,” Vargas said. “For me it was really important to bring this forum because I really wanted people to know their rights.
“They want to know, are they going aggressively after people who don’t have a criminal record.” Vargas said. “You hear the Trump Administration say, ‘We’re going after murderers, rapists people like that,’ and yet at the same time you hear that the people getting deported are moms and dads.”
The crowd of 100 people listened to advice by immigration lawyers on what to do if federal officers show up at their doors.
“Do not open the door,” said Esmeralda Flores, an immigrants’ rights and binational affairs advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “If they’re looking for someone, you should ask them for a warrant.”
Flores also advised that if someone is arrested, they should remain silent and not sign anything until speaking to a lawyer.
Attorney Tammy Lin with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows certain immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit after a thorough screening and background check.
Lin said under the new era of the Trump Administration, people are afraid to give their information.
“A lot of folks are still asking, ‘Should I apply for DACA?’ And what we’ve kind of agreed upon in the immigration attorney community is if you already have DACA, renew it,” she said. "Should you apply if you don’t have it? That’s something you really need to talk with your family about. There are a lot of benefits to it.”
Other panel members included former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who spoke about his initiatives to help deported veterans; Immigration Attorney Matt Holt, with AILA; and Alana Ow, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The forum was calm except for a few outbursts during a question and answer session.
Vargas’s district spans the southeastern portion of San Diego County, as well as Imperial County and the entire California-Mexico border.