Immigrant rights are the focus of residents’ concerns

Written by on May 1, 2017 in Seattle Housing Authority, Yesler Terrace - Comments Off

By Kristin O’Donnell

SHA resident

Area residents gathered at Raven Terrace to hear how Seattle will continue to remain a sanctuary city for immigrants and refugees. Photo by DK Pan

Area residents gathered at Raven Terrace to hear how Seattle will continue to remain a sanctuary city for immigrants and refugees. Photo by DK Pan

Several dozen residents attended the April 11 Yesler Terrace Community Council (YTCC) meeting to get information and ask questions about immigrant rights.

Presenters included Mergitu Argo from OneAmerica, Joaquin Uy from the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Sven Kohler from Seattle Housing Authority and Seattle Community Police Team liaison Officer John Skommesa.

Audience members expressed concern and asked questions about immigration, travel bans and deportations. Their questions, along with panelists’ responses, have been edited for space and clarity.

Is it safe for me to travel?
Changes at the federal level could make travel more difficult for many, especially for those who aren’t citizens and who are from President Trump’s proposed banned and predominately Muslim countries: Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Iran. If you plan to travel to those countries, it is best not to leave the country now, and consult a lawyer before going. Getting through airport security often takes much more time for non-citizens.

Do I have to let immigration agents into my apartment?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents must have warrants signed by a federal judge to enter and search homes, and individuals have a right to remain silent. Most ICE warrants have been issued to search for individuals, usually people with previous criminal convictions. If they have a warrant, they can enter homes.

In Seattle, police and other city agencies do not ask citizens about their immigration status. Seattle Housing Authority needs to know but does not share the information with ICE. They will unlock the door of an apartment if officers have a warrant.

What if I get a call from someone from an agency like Immigration or the IRS who demand money?
Panelists cautioned that foreign-born residents have been victimized by people who pretend to be immigration agents or from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scammers often ask for money to pay outstanding fines or bills by phone. Agencies such as the IRS will never call people and demand payment; they will always reach people through the U.S. mail.

  • Tips on how to stay safe:
    Since phones can get lost (or confiscated), memorize key phone numbers of trusted friends or relatives, doctors, lawyers, schools, etc.
  • Know where your key papers are, including birth certificate, green card, citizenship papers, health records, driver’s license and school records.
  • Ask for identification from people who say they are from the phone or cable company−anyone you didn’t invite to your home. If they can’t prove who they are, call Seattle Police at 911.


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