UNT faculty group La Colectiva is hosting a presentation Thursday, featuring Dr. Anna Sampaio, Santa Clara University Chair of Ethnic Studies and author of Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants: Race, Gender, and Immigration Politics in the Age of Security. The talk comes in the wake of this past Tuesday’s White House memos to rapidly expand the powers of the United States Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement.
The doctor will be discussing current “proposed and enacted changes to immigration law, policy and discourse.”
Dr. Andrea Silva is a professor in UNT’s political science department and a member of La Colectiva, the group that organized the event. She hopes Sampaio’s talk will provide “an understanding of what the system does to undocumented immigrants, particularly women.”
An example of a unique experience to undocumented immigrant women is the story of the 33-year-old transgender woman in El Paso, recently arrested by ICE within the courthouse where she was requesting a protective order from her domestic abuser.
“It’s a lot more complex than broad policy prescriptions can help,” Silva said. “These policy prescriptions need to be more subtle and understanding of the intricacies of immigration policy.”
Silva said that at this point, immigration policy is changing so rapidly that it creates a lot of confusion to immigrant families affected by it.
The presentation will come in the context of this past Tuesday’s arrest and this past Wednesday’s release of Edwin Romero, 25, a University of Texas at Dallas student held by Richardson police in conjunction with an ICE hold request, despite having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. DACA guarantees a renewable stay of deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
Romero is a UTD student and animal clinic worker with DACA status, and the sole provider for his ill mother. Romero was arrested this past Tuesday night after a traffic stop.
He was not read his Miranda rights, nor told why he had been stopped, but was arrested on an expired car registration. After Romero paid his bonds, he was still not released as ICE asked Richardson police for a hold.
“I am very confident that the reason why I was released from Richardson City Jail is because of all the calls that people were making demanding that I was released,” Romero said. “Maybe if I wasn’t involved, I would have fallen through the cracks.”
Romero says that if that had been the case, he could have been transported to an ICE detention center.
Kristian Hernandez is an organizer with the Oak Cliff-based North Texas Dream Team, the 501©(3) that spearheaded the grassroots call-in campaign to release Edwin Romero.
“Immigration law itself is really difficult to navigate,” Hernandez said. “It’s something that hasn’t really been updated since 96.”
Because Romero had been an active member with the North Texas Dream Team for the past two years, a campaign was mobilized quickly.
Hernandez calls the fact that Romero was not read his Miranda rights “inexcusable.”
She said that while there have been a rash of implementation memos or executive orders, such as the Priority Enforcement Program and the Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed for collaboration between law enforcement and ICE, there has not been concrete, easily navigable legislation.
This volatility confuses not only the immigrant population, but law enforcement. Hernandez said the Dallas Police Department has its own “myriad of issues,” referencing a mass exodus of officers since 2015 in response to proposed cut pensions and officers’ low salaries relative other to metropolitan areas.
“When law enforcement is now expected to navigate the tricky world of immigration laws, you know, this is what’s going to happen,” Hernandez said.
When the North Texas Dream Team traveled to Austin to testify against the passing of Senate Bill 4, which punishes law enforcement agencies and “sanctuary” universities who refuse to honor ICE detainers, Hernandez said Austin and San Antonio sheriffs joined them.
“What they were basically saying was, yeah this is a huge strain on our squads, and we should not be expected to learn immigration law in order to [figure out] who to arrest and who not to arrest,” Hernandez said.
President Donald Trump referred to his immigration enforcement campaign this past Thursday as a “military operation.” Just what this means for people like Edwin Romero is changing at an accelerated pace.
Initiatives like La Colectiva’s presentation Thursday at noon are being hosted around the country by community organizations to not only elucidate these developments, but to ensure the vulnerable know their rights.
“It kind of shows that [people] think the immigrant community isn’t informed,” Hernandez said. “But we know our rights, and we’re going to continue as an organization to push for people to know their rights so if they’re going to try to pull a fast one on us that’s not going to work.”