The confusion created by a number of new presidential executive orders relating to immigration sparked a well-attended meeting and workshop at the First Presbyterian Church last Thursday evening, with a series of presentations by St. Helena Unified School District and a workshop-collaboration with the IIBA and UpValley Family Centers.

The topic was “Know your rights,” with the purpose of helping individuals understand how recent decisions at the federal level may impact their lives as immigrants in the United States.

In attendance were Napa County Sherriff John Robinson, St. Helena Unified School District representative Andrea Stubbs, St. Helena Mayor Alan Galbraith, and St. Helena Police Chief William Imboden.

The meeting was simultaneously translated between Spanish and English.

Attendees had been provided with literature at the door that included a “Family Preparedness Plan” from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a brochure from the Napa County District Attorney’s Office entitled “Help for Victims & Witnesses of Crime”, a “Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit”, and a small, wallet-sized red card written in English and Spanish containing a message designed to be presented by any immigrant detained by an immigration authority.

The meeting began with a powerpoint by SHUSD official Andrea Stubbs making it clear that St. Helena students have nothing to fear at school, whether they’re in the country illegally or not. A similar presentation was being given simultaneously at the St. Helena Unified School District’s board meeting.

The meeting then turned to an in-depth presentation about how the legal immigration process in the United States works, including the various kinds of immigration visas that an undocumented person may be legally qualified to obtain. The presenter stressed that because the details were complicated, there is a serious need for interested parties to seek qualified legal counseling from one of the immigration law service organizations such as the IIBA.

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The workshop portion of the meeting provided some role-playing by the presenters to demonstrate how persons of undocumented status should protect their civil rights when interacting with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representative. For instance, if detained, to give the ICE officer the red card that was distributed at the start of the meeting.

This card read:

“I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, or sign or hand you any documents, based on my 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. I do not give you permission to enter my home based on my 4th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution unless you have a warrant to enter, signed by a judge or magistrate with my name on it that you slide under the door. I do not give you permission to search any of my belongings based on my 4th Amendment rights. “

The idea, according to the organizers, is to give immigrants guidance on how to legitimately push back against attempts to detain them, mostly using tactics designed to keep agents from learning anything that they don’t already know.

The point is, according to the presenters that the government cannot legally deport any immigrant unless they can prove the person is in the U.S. illegally. One such tactic, according to the presenters, is not to physically open the door to anyone claiming to be an officer and to deny them from knowing about who is inside.

This tactic created a question from the audience directed to Police Chief Imboden: “Can a local police officer (not an ICE representative) demand entrance?”

Imboden said there are a number of public safety issues which could cause a city police officer or county deputy sheriff to legally demand entry.

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Tom Stockwell is currently a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. He is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and has been a working journalist for a variety of technical publications as well as a consultant for numerous wineries in the Napa Valley.