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Groups Launch Immigrants' Rights Guide for Demonstrations

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Thursday, April 1, 2021   

LINCOLN, Neb. -- As President Joe Biden works to make good on promises to overhaul federal immigration policy, a new guide released this week aims to help Nebraska's immigrant communities safely join the public debate.

Dearra Godinez, director of legal services for the Immigrant Legal Center, said all Nebraskans, regardless of their immigration status, have First Amendment and other rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

But she noted because immigrants face unique legal risks, the guide offers key tips before attending a demonstration, including making a safety plan.

"Having contact information for an immigration attorney readily available, making sure there are plans in place to meet child care or other needs, and knowing and using their rights that are spelled out in this guide, including one's right to remain silent and right to an attorney," Godinez outlined.

The guide is available online in English and Spanish at immigrantlc.org, and print editions can be picked up at Immigrant Legal Center offices in Omaha and the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights office in Lincoln's City and County Building. Nebraskans also can receive free screenings to connect with immigration lawyers by calling 855-307-6730.

U.S. immigration policies disproportionately affect immigrants of color, and Godinez pointed to studies which show Black immigrants are more likely to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned.

She added all immigrants face additional risks from any encounter with police.

"Because interaction with law enforcement can lead to an encounter with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, even if one did not commit a crime and the individual was not charged with an offense," Godinez explained.

Immigrants with legal documentation must consider factors that don't apply to other Nebraskans attending demonstrations.

Godinez acknowledged simply being arrested while exercising rights protected under the U.S. Constitution can become a roadblock to citizenship.


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