More urgent than ever that immigrants understand, adhere to US laws

Richard Byrd behind bars

Fear and concern continues to permeate South Florida’s and the nation’s immigrant community as the Trump administration signals its intent to impose hard line immigration policies. Sometimes, these signals are mixed.

There was the executive order seeking to ban immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. Following the cessation of that executive order by a federal appeal court, the administration hit the pause button claiming they are redoing the immigration order. Last week, addressing a  press conference, President Trump in responding to a question about his plans for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program implemented by President Barack Obama, said “DACA is really hard” as it involves so many children. The implication of this response is he’s uncertain what to do about the program which permits millions of children born in America to undocumented immigrants to live in the country. The next day news surfaced of a 5-page draft of an administration plan to deploy 100,000 national guards around the country to round-up undocumented immigrants. The administration subsequently denied there is any such plan.

What is certain; the Trump administration will impose a very stringent anti-immigration policy soon. The core of this policy is targeted against undocumented and documented immigrants that break US laws.

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However, the US has a wide variety of laws. Breaking a law doesn’t necessarily mean committing a criminal offense. There are tax laws, traffic laws, family laws, laws apply to domestic violence, laws that applies to tenants and landlords, and umpteenth other laws. All these laws, and the various laws that relate to criminal offenses are laws that anyone can run afoul of. What is unknown is which of these laws broken by a non-citizen in South Florida places them in danger of being sent to the Krome Detention Center to face possible deportation.

This is a very valid concern among immigrants in light of reports of immigrants in other states turning up to report to their probation officers, and people who are stopped for  traffic violations, being held and detained for being undocumented immigrants.

Another concern immigrants have, is at what period does breaking a law becomes an offense warranting detention in an immigration detention center. Americans often quote  the justice cliché, “Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” However, they are reports of undocumented immigrants being detained following their arrest, without even having faced a judge.

There’s so much uncertainty permeating the society that not even experienced immigration attorneys have all the answers.

The situation requires all immigrants to make a determined effort to acquaint themselves with Florida and federal laws, and make sure they adhere to them.

Several patterns of behavior taken for granted in the Caribbean are behavior that are tantamount to breaking laws in Florida and other states. Simply crossing a street outside of a pedestrian crossing can warrant someone breaking the law and charged for jay-walking. In most Caribbean countries, people cross streets at their will placing themselves at risk of being run over by a vehicle.

One of the early tenets of the law immigrants quickly learn by living in America is “ignorance of the law excuses no one for breaking the law.” There have been known to be several incidents in courts across America where immigrants plead in vain with judges and jurors that they had no idea they were breaking the law for which they were charged.

One can now picture an individual innocently, although carelessly, crossing a street, charged for jaywalking, and when booked is determined to be an undocumented immigration who could possibly be detained pending deportation. There is simple no definite indication if such a scenario is actually possible in the environment of uncertainty that currently surrounds the nation’s immigration policies. Suddenly, it seems that immigration authorities, or ICE, have free reign to detain any immigrant who breaks whatsoever law.

Living in this country of so many laws it is the responsibility of every immigrant to learn the laws, and not get caught breaking a law that they are not even aware  exist. Knowing these laws and ensuring they are not broken is one way of assuring non-citizens do not run the risk of being detained.

Admittedly, law enforcement cannot be blamed if, and when, they arrest perpetuators, regardless of their immigration status who break the law. Laws are meant to be kept.

Ironically, the Trump administration’s policy to deport immigrants who break the nation laws could create a more law abiding society. However, the society need to be definitely informed which are the laws, if broken, risk immigrants being detained and deported. This is a matter of greatest urgency.



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