Nonprofit Legal Center Teaches High School Students about Immigration Rights

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February 14, 2017; Desert Sun (Palm Springs and Coachella Valley, CA)

This will be the second time in a month that we have published a piece on organizing for immigrant rights through high schools. Readers will recall our article on a network of cells in French high schools that is helping to prevent deportation of students. Now, here in the United States, a California legal center is working through a new channel to educate immigrants about their legal rights: high schools. The TODEC Legal Center of Perris, California, is kicking off a series of workshops held in high school gymnasiums around Southern California, California’s Desert Sun reported earlier this week.

Volunteers from TODEC, which stands for “Training Occupational Development Educating Communities,” made their first stop at Desert Mirage High School on Tuesday, where they spoke to hundreds of students and parents about federal immigration policy and the rights immigrants have when questioned by immigration enforcement officers.

The high school tour kicked off, TODEC officials said, when parents came to the nonprofit’s immigration workshops with worries about students, saying their children were afraid to go to school or out their families as undocumented immigrants.

Nonprofits providing legal aid and resources to immigrants have reportedly been busy in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration and his repeated promises of stricter immigration policy enforcement. Last week’s series of immigration enforcement raids led to the arrests of more than 680 people around the country. While these raids don’t stand as an unprecedented departure from pre-Trump ICE activities, the use of “collateral arrests”—arrests of unauthorized immigrants who were in the vicinity of the raids but did not have outstanding arrest warrants for other crimes—sparked concerns by immigration rights activists.

In addition, some young people were frightened by the detention of one young undocumented immigrant in particular. Daniel Ramirez Medina was arrested Friday when Seattle immigration officials came to his father’s home to arrest the older man on an outstanding warrant. No warrant for Daniel Ramirez had been issued, and Ramirez was covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Immigration officials have not yet stated whether Ramirez will enter deportation proceedings.

The Trump administration has considered ending DACA, the Obama-era program allowing residents brought to the country as children to attend school and work, and has drafted an executive order that would phase out the program over the next two years. However, many Republicans are cautious about eliminating protections for childhood arrivals who have lived in the U.S. for years, and no firm plans regarding the program have been released. As fears surrounding DACA’s future persist, nonprofits in the legal aid arena may be increasingly valuable resources for families seeking information and high schools may indeed become centers of information and resources.—Lauren Karch