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Community Allies Work To Support Kansas City Residents Fearing Deportation Raids

File photo
Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation Kansas City
Volunteers marched through Brookside in support of immigrant families in 2018.

Celia Calderon Ruiz hands out Constitutional rights doorhangers to recent immigrants in her Kansas City community. The hangers serve as a reminder that no one need allow law enforcement into their homes without a warrant signed by a judge.

Even though she's an American citizen and has no reason to fear a visit from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, having the hanger on her own doorknob gave her anxiety.

"I can't walk out of my house and feel productive and happy and go do my regular day job and have to think about all of that guidance there," Ruiz said. "We can give guidance, but we have to realize how real this is for so many families every day."

In the week after July 14 ICE raids on communities across the nation, Kansas City's immigrant community has stayed on edge.

But they're not without support.

Ruiz created a 20-page workbook called "Cuidémonos," or "Take Care of Ourselves," that helps immigrants stay clear-headed and plan for the possibility of deportation. The workbook is available free on line and is being used for Know Your Rights training offered periodically at the Kansas City Public Library.

The book prompts users to record essential information about themselves that they might not think to give a trusted friend, but that would be essential if they were detained. Besides their full name, date of birth, marriage status, important prescriptions and whether anyone has power of attorney, the workbook also urges people to record their decision about whether they would want to fight deportation.

Ruiz says some people leave a contingency plan so a friend knows where to send their things, while others have an immigration attorney lined up and ready.

Whether residents are full United States citizens, undocumented, green card holders or have some other status, no one feels safe facing the threat of a sweep.

"I don't think the anxiety or fear ever goes away," said Israel Garcia, who came to the United States with his family at the age of seven and is now a United States citizen. "You kind of, in some way, have lived with this trauma for 35 plus years. It's going to take me at least as long to get a handle on it or get over it."

Credit Rylie Koester / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Israel Garcia, Celia Calderon Ruiz and Angela Ferguson came together at KCUR to discuss immigration fears in Kansas City.

For most of his childhood, Garcia said, he didn't understand his own status — he only knew that his mother was working to make the family legal. Now the operator of an art gallery, Garcia continues to be part of the larger community of immigrants in Kansas City. He said threats that any member of that group might be deported are nerve-wracking.

"We are all in a circle of loved ones where their status is unknown," he said. "We love them enough to care and have that empathy for their experience and for their narrative that may be different from ours, but it’s still a parallel issue."

Angela Ferguson, an immigration attorney at Austin & Ferguson, said her office has recently fielded a higher than usual number of calls from people asking what to do if they get that knock on the door.

"It's important for them to know they have the right against unlawful search and seizure; they have the right not to let ICE in to their homes, not to let law enforcement into their homes if they do not have a warrant for the arrest of the correct person signed by a judge, and that is so critical," Ferguson said.

She said she hears stories about immigration officers flashing a photo and asking if the pictured person lives at the address. When the answer is no, the officers ask to come in and talk anyway.

Ferguson is a board member for Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation, which hands out free emergency packets that include chain locks they encourage immigrants to install.

She explained, "Law enforcement is trained to get that door open, so if someone cracks the door, they will try to step in, they will get that foot in the door and count that as consent."

Celia Calderon Ruiz, Israel Garcia and Angela Ferguson spoke with KCUR on a recent edition of Central Standard. Listen to the full conversation here.

Follow KCUR contributor Anne Kniggendorf on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.

Anne Kniggendorf is a staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and freelance contributor to KCUR. Follow her on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.
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