Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of her story, a woman’s last name was not used during the presentation and in the story in order to protect her anonymity.
RIVERDALE — One morning in May, Maria’s husband was driving their kids to the bus when he was detained by ICE agents.
The Glenarden resident, who along with her husband, is part of the Temporary Protected Status program (TPS) — an immigration status granted to those coming from a foreign country from which they cannot return safely — and has lived in the community since 2000.
Maria said she knows her rights, but when ICE took her husband around 6 a.m. that morning, there was nothing she could do.
“They are very intimidating,” she said.
Maria shared her story on July 8 as part of a Know Your Rights training event. The event, held at the Center for Educational Partnership in Riverdale, was hosted by Councilmember Dannielle Glaros (District 3).
“We make a lot of assumptions with U.S. citizens about what our rights are,” Glaros said. “And those rights are very different for our immigrant community. It’s really important that we understand what our immigrant community is facing and how we can best support them, and how we can also get this information to our neighbor who might be living next door to us.”
Glaros said the desire to further educate her diverse community is what inspired her to organize the event.
“We’re an incredibly diverse district in every way you want to think about diversity,” Glaros said, adding that District 3 includes a large refugee resettlement and many residents from the Middle East, Africa and Central and South Americas.
About 50 people attended the training, which was led by members of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). The event was designed to help educate community leaders and residents about immigrants’ rights and the most effective ways to interact with ICE agents in various situations.
One of the most important things immigrants should do is memorize their Alien Registration Number, said Estephany Brito, the community schools coordinator at LAYC and one of the training’s presenters. That number, she said, is just as important as a social security number and can be helpful for determining court dates in the event the person in question did not receive a notice.
The presenters also provided examples of valid and invalid arrest warrants and highlighted what to look for when one is presented. Valid warrants, they said, must be dated within the last 14 days, include a judge’s signature and the full name and address of the person in question.
“Officers, whether it’s police officers or ICE agents, will show up with an invalid warrant because they think that people don’t know any better,” Brito said.
According to ICE data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, more than 5,100 people were arrested by ICE agents in Maryland between October 2014 and May 2018. More than 600 of those arrests came from Prince George’s County, according to the data.
The event also covered how to interact with ICE agents, both at home and in public. At home, Brito and Natalia Diaz, a LAYC promotor, explained that agents can only enter a private residence with an arrest warrant or permission. They advised to not open the door otherwise and always ask for identification.
But Diaz acknowledged that sometimes following that advice can be easier said than done. As a mother to an 18-year-old who she said sometimes misses his curfew, Diaz said her first reaction would be to open the door if a police officer came to her home.
“If I see someone, especially someone in uniform, I’m not going to ask who they are,” Diaz said. “I think that it’s very important to share this when we’re educating our community. Because, especially if you’re a parent, that kind of instinct — it just kicks in.”
Even in Maria’s case, where she knew all the rules and her rights as an immigrant, Brito said people should be prepared and have an attorney’s information at all times.
“They don’t follow the rules,” Brito said. “And the intimidation is very much there, they’re going to use whatever factors they can.”