As New Jersey immigration officials implement President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, many communities have responded with confusion and panic. Shifting policy has serious ramifications for the businesses community, from immigrant business owners to those who employ immigrants.
To help combat misinformation, arm vulnerable communities with useful facts, and inform New Jersey residents on their legal rights when interacting with immigration officials and the immigration system, immigration lawyer Sue Roy has been giving a series of lectures on the topic of immigration policy.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and many people trying to take advantage of immigrants and immigrant communities, especially those who are undocumented,” Roy says. For example, Roy observes more clients receiving scam phone calls from individuals claiming to be lawyers or those who promise to help immigrants obtain citizenship in return for labor. Roy notes scams preying on vulnerable immigrant communities have always been a problem, but the practice has become much more prevalent in the last two months.
Roy will be giving a “Know Your Rights” presentation at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 177 Princeton-Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction, on Sunday, March 26, from 3 to 5 p.m. The event, cosponsored by the church and the Institute of Islamic Studies, is free and open to the public. For more information, visit facebook.com/popnjchurch.
Roy will discuss the legal rights of immigrant communities and how they might best respond and protect themselves in interactions with immigration officials.
Roy urges lawful permanent residents and visa holders to carry some form of legal ID in case they are stopped. As police have the right to look at cell phone and documents when traveling overseas, Roy advises that visa holders and lawful permanent residents be mindful of what they carry, and aware they may be stopped and questioned at airports.
For those in the country illegally, Roy reminds individuals that they have the right to refuse to answer any questions that the police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers ask, and to deny entry to immigration officials without an arrest warrant signed by a judge. If stopped by ICE official or the police, Roy recommends individuals be respectful and do not resist arrest, but remember they are not compelled to answer any question or sign anything, and should not sign any paperwork unless it can be read and understood. If detained, Roy counsels individuals to ask to speak to a lawyer and go before judge and ask for a bond.
“If you think you might be in danger of being picked up by immigration, you want to have a plan in place, make sure you have paperwork in order — this includes any medical records or tax returns or proof you have that shows you are of good moral character that could help you get released from custody,” Roy says.
A big difference in Trump’s policy is that individuals may be put into ICE immigration proceedings who have been arrested but not necessarily convicted, Roy says. Under President Obama, officials waited for an arrested individual to be convicted of a crime before they would put them into ICE immigration proceedings.
Immigration enforcement in New Jersey is still honoring old procedures from the Obama administration and not arresting individuals in schools or those leaving hospitals or places of worship, according to information publicly released by the enforcement and removal branch of ICE. However, Roy notes it is possible officials might stop someone they are already looking for who might be outside of these places.
For business owners who employ immigrants, Roy notes that employers can refuse ICE raids in their place of employment. “In terms of business owners, as an employer you do not have to give immigration officials the right to come into your place of employment,” Roy says.”If you do then immigration has the right to come in and potentially come in and ask employees about their status. You do not have to grant permission absent a warrant for officials to come in.”
Business owners walk a fine line between making sure their employees have valid authorization to work and crossing into questions that might be considered discriminatory, Roy says. If employees present documents that appear valid, it is not an employer’s responsibility to go beyond what is shown, as business owners do not want to be in the position where they are asking employees for more information than employees are required to give. As long as employees have given documents like a Social Security card, the inquiry can end for business holder, Roy says.
Roy has been practicing immigration law for over 20 years, both in Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an attorney, and later as an immigration judge in Newark. Roy then entered private practice, and in January, 2016, launched her solo practice, focusing on immigration, municipal court, and criminal cases.
“I sort of feel like an accidental activist, because I have nothing but the highest regard for immigration and custom enforcement, having worked for many years as a trial attorney and the office of investigations,” Roy says. “I know immigration officials to be professionals and respectful of people’s rights. But even the most professional, conscientious ICE officers are employees of the executive branch, so they have to follow orders put into place.”
Roy has seen immigration law under several presidents in various capacities, both as a government official and as a private lawyer. Roy says the biggest change she has observed under Trump is not the use of executive orders, or even necessarily an increase in deportations, but rather that the executive orders are confusing for officials attempting to understand them and their purpose.
“These executive orders that were issued by President Trump in the first week were not vetted to make sure they were enforceable or carefully thought out,” Roy says. The basis of the law — and its targeting of small minorities of the immigrant population, irrespective of potential harm — is more of a political statement than a well thought out immigration policy, according to Roy. (As of press time, Trump’s ban on immigration from six majority-Muslim countries had been blocked by judges.)
“The issue that is causing so much fear in our communities including those who are U.S. citizens is that policy really seems to target specific groups of people without any particular justification,” Roy says. “The rationale behind the latest travel ban doesn’t seem to make rational sense — why are we targeting people from six Muslim countries as opposed to any other countries, particularly since we are not targeting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? And I say that as someone who was a national attorney when I worked for ICE, so I say that with a strong amount of knowledge about this particular travel ban.”
Roy believes such policies result in a legal mess, causing unnecessary chaos and fear. “What they’ve done is to instill fear and panic in the immigrant community when that was absolutely not necessary and not beneficial to anybody; law enforcement, citizens, the country or immigrants, many whom, even here legally, are petrified. For those not here legally, they are living in a constant state of terror, afraid to leave their houses, send children to school, report crimes to police, get medical care.”