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Panelist Fernanda Pereira, a Stockton immigration attorney, speaks with attendee about immigration concerns.

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Immigration panel helps community members understand their rights

Jan 27, 2017

More than 150 community members came out to Grace Covell Hall on the Stockton Campus for an immigration forum Thursday, Jan. 26, which also happened to be the very day President Donald Trump signed executive orders affecting immigration issues. The panel discussion, which had been in the works for months, explained the impact of the policy changes and gave an overview of immigration rights to those attending. 

"We planned this a couple months ago after the election results," Ines Ruiz-Huston, Pacific's Latinx Community Outreach coordinator, told The Record. "We decided it was important to be proactive and educate the community about immigration rights. We know there is a lot of fear in the community right now and we wanted to make sure people know who to talk to about immigration and their rights."

The event was organized by Ruiz-Huston and co-sponsored by the McGeorge School of Law, El Concilio, Univision, and Pacific Legal Scholars. Experts tapped for the panel were:

  • Raquel Aldana, professor of law, associate dean for faculty scholarship at McGeorge School of Law. Aldana is also director of the school's Inter-American Program and an instructor in McGeorge's Immigration Law Clinics 
  • Brian Lopez '12, McGeorge alumnus and immigration attorney with a focus on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 
  • Rebecca Caporale '15, McGeorge alumna and immigration law attorney at Wilner & O'Reilly, whose private practice includes family-based immigration and other immigration issues 
  • Aaron Brieno '14, McGeorge alumnus and legislative aide to California Senator Ben Hueso 
  • Sameera Ali '12, McGeorge alumna and Sacramento immigration attorney 
  • Fernanda Pereira '97, McGeorge alumna and Stockton immigration attorney 

Immigration Forum Stockton 2017

Several panelists commented that it is fortunate to be in California where state lawmakers and others in government have been resistant to Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity, despite the threats of lost federal funding under the Trump Administration. The Department of Homeland Security estimates nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants are in California. 

President Pamela Eibeck was also acknowledged during the forum for her statement on supporting students through this time. She was one of the first university presidents to sign a petition to continue honoring DACA.

Following the panel discussion, immigration attorneys offered individual consultations where attendees were able to discuss concerns relating to theirs or a family member's specific circumstances. Educators and administrators from area school districts also attended the forum to gain information on behalf of their students and their families.

Attendees were informed that they have rights and that they should exercise them, but to also follow the law. They were also advised to never sign anything without legal counsel. Panelists offered three suggestions for individuals to prepare for the possibility of being deported:

  • Always carry the number of an immigration attorney. 
  • Those with children should identify a guardian for their children and be sure their children have passports. 
  • Name a trustee to handle bank accounts and other assets.

McGeorge School of Law will also be offering an Executive Training on Immigration Rights from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Feb. 4 in Classroom A. The workshop, geared to non-lawyers who interact with or provide services to immigrants, will provide tools to identify and address a range of legal issues relevant to immigrant rights. Participants will have the opportunity to pose questions arising from situations they have encountered and learn how to locate resources to help resolve them. 

McGeorge's Immigration Law Clinic also offers legal assistance to low-income clients on immigration matters.

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