Confusion Over Immigration Raids, New Policies Drive ‘Know-Your-Rights' Forum

A Dallas immigration attorney says he tells undocumented families to remember their right to remain silent

In the cafeteria of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Dallas, undocumented families sat with notebooks and pencils, ready to hear what they should do if confronted by immigration officers.

The keynote speaker, Dallas immigration attorney Paul Zoltan, told the audience they must remember their right to remain silent when approached by immigration officers or even local police.

"It used to be that I hammered home the point there is local law enforcement and there's ICE. The division is lost," Zoltan said. "The division between police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been dangerously eroded."

The forum Wednesday evening was organized by Dallas Area Interfaith.

Organizers said the demand for informational sessions for undocumented immigrants is high, following reports of pending immigration raids and a newly expanded expedited deportation policy for some undocumented immigrants.

One of the families in attendance told NBC 5, they were more fearful of being split up. The family didn't want to give their names because the parents and a 17-year-old are undocumented. Two younger siblings were born in Texas and are U.S. citizens.

"What if one day they stop everyone in the street and they just get us?" asked a 13-year-old in the family. "It's not safe for us."

"My little brother and me wouldn't know what to do or who to go to," she added.

Zoltan said he tells people who attend his seminars to avoid answering questions -- even from local police.

He acknowledges the consequence makes it difficult for police to solve crimes, but said there is a risk that a local officer would question a person's immigration status.

He still tells undocumented victims of crime to call for help.

"If you are the immediate victim of a crime, you should call the police. The likelihood of you being turned over to immigration is very low," Zoltan said. "The risk is slight, but I can no longer deny there is a risk."

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