PHOENIX - With recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions and arrests sweeping across the nation, immigrant rights advocates say it has sparked worry, fear and anger in many communities.
In Phoenix, the arrest and subsequent deportation of Mesa mother Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos last week served as a reality check for illegal immigrant families in the Valley.
Advocacy groups and lawyers reported getting slammed with phone calls from families wanting to know what they should be prepared for. Not all of them were undocumented residents, but their mother, father, or relative was.
"We are telling people they have rights. They don't have to open the door if they don't know who's at the door. They can maintain their silence," said Petra Falcon, an immigrant activist and executive director of Promise Arizona.
"You do have the right to remain silent. Tell them to show you a warrant. It has to be signed by a judge, not an ICE agent. You have the right to ask for a phone call, tell them hey, I have an attorney," said Larry Sandigo, an immigration attorney in Phoenix.
Falcon said it was obvious to the immigrant community that ICE's priorities had changed in the last few weeks.
ICE officials said they were focused on removing those with criminal felony convictions and orders of removal, but based on the nature of the crime, they had allowed some people to remain in the country "supervised" as long as they continued to check in at their designated times. In Garcia de Rayos' case, she was convicted of a felony for using another person's social security number when she worked at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa.
Garcia de Rayos had been required to check in every six months, which she did several times. Now, with her deportation, immigration activists said they were preparing the community for the new face of ICE, under a new administration.
"I called them ICE with a heart. Yes, there is policy, but they were looking what situation a person is in. They were putting humanity to that," said Falcon.
Immigration lawyers stressed that their clients should not break the law.
"I definitely don't recommend not checking in if you're supposed to, or go into hiding. We are not telling anyone to break the law, you shouldn't do that," stressed Sandigo.
He added that they were stressing that everyone had the right to a due process. The advice they were giving undocumented residents was all within the boundaries of the law.
Advocacy groups plan to hold many forums for those who need information. Promise Arizona will host one at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mesa, on Wednesday the 15th at 7 p.m. Attorneys will be on hand to answer questions.