Community comes out for immigration and privacy forum

With fear growing in immigrant communities over recent actions taken under the watch of the Trump administration, the ACLU’s Pasadena-Foothills chapter hosted a forum Tuesday evening in Glendale to help address concerns.

Held at Glendale City Church, the two-hour event featured several speakers and covered a wide range of topics including the administration’s travel ban and digital privacy at home and abroad.

A topic that weighed heavily for both the speakers and attendees was the recent raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

Humberto Ayala, a Los Angeles Unified teacher living in Glendale, said he came to the forum to learn more about the raids and how to interact with ICE agents so he can relay the information back to his students.

“I work with the Latino community. I work with Latino kids. I see the fear in their faces, and I encounter that almost on a daily basis,” he said.

The forum referenced the case of 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who was deported to Mexico in February despite being protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — an Obama-era immigration policy that protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors from deportation.

Montes, who had been living in the United States since he was 9 years old, was deported within several hours after being caught by immigration officials near the U.S./Mexico border. It has been widely reported that Montes said he had left his ID proving his DACA status in a friend’s car and couldn’t show it to federal agents.

Gabriel Castro, directing attorney for Catholic Charities’ immigration program, said the deportation occurred despite President Donald Trump saying the DACA program will remain unchanged under his administration.

“The question really is: If that’s going to be the way this administration is treating the DACA recipients, then how much real protection can that program provide?” he said.

Also addressed at the forum were rights afforded to noncitizens in the United States, especially when they’re in custody. Ahilan Arulanantham, director of advocacy for the ACLU in Southern California, said the core protection of the U.S. Constitution applies to everyone in the country regardless of their status.

He said that protection includes being entitled to due process, the right of habeas corpus and protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“There’s a lot of complexity underneath [the protections], but the due process clause … protects all persons,” Arulanantham said. “If you are a person, for purposes of the 5th Amendment, you are included in those protections.”

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, spent part of the forum talking about what he called growing Islamophobia in the United States and the influx of refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East.

Al-Marayati said Muslims only account for a small portion of the U.S. population — about three million in a country of 300 million — but have been heavily targeted with suspicion.

He said such targeting has had a chilling effect throughout the community, making Muslims afraid to come out and participate in any kind of civic engagement. Using January’s travel ban protest at the Los Angeles International Airport as an example, Al-Marayati said he could only find “10 to 15 people” from the Muslim community participating.

“When a community is treated as a suspect community, then bad things happen,” he said.

Digital and personal privacy were also touched upon at the forum.

Byron Rogers, a technologist with a focus on privacy and security, talked about ways law enforcement agencies track people using devices such as “Stingrays,” which are made to look like cellphone towers that can scan a person’s phone data.

Because they mimic cellphone towers, he said it’s not easy to detect when a phone is connected to one.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc