2017-03-17 / Faith

Archdiocese educates undocumented families

Suggests immigrant parents prepare a ‘power of attorney’ to protect kids
By Hector Gonzalez

A small army of local volunteers has signed up to educate undocumented families about their rights and how to prepare in the event they’re detained by immigration agents.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Office of Life, Justice and Peace is leading the outreach effort, which is aimed at allaying growing fears of deportation in the immigrant community, according to the archdiocese’s website.

Last month the archdiocese launched a webpage, www.laarchdiocese.org/org/oljp/pages/ Immigration.aspx, that contains a list of resources for undocumented immigrants and refugees.

The page has a downloadable guide, “Preparing Your Family for Immigration Enforcement,” which has information and advice undocumented families can follow if stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents.

For example, the guide advises people to keep important documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and passports in one safe, easily accessible place.

“Prepare a ‘power of attorney’ form to ensure the proper care of your children with a relative or family friend in case you are detained,” the guide advises. “This is very important and in an emergency would allow for a close friend or family member to care for your children rather than them being placed into the foster care system.”

To help spread the advice, Jaime Huerta of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace said, the archdiocese is creating immigrant education teams, called peace and justice teams, at churches in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.

Using materials from the webpage and other resources, the teams will work directly with the undocumented community to explain what rights they have under the law and what to do if they land in a deportation situation, Huerta said.

Last week, he led a workshop in Moorpark and another in Carpinteria to show parishioners how to form the teams. Huerta said other workshops are planned throughout the three counties in the coming weeks.

Following a workshop held Feb. 22 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Moorpark, 84 people volunteered to take part in peace and justice teams, said Sue Jones, Holy Cross’ director of faith formation.

“I have their names already in my computer,” she said Tuesday. “The next step is to actually form the peace and justice teams.”

Jones said she’s seeing increasing fear among undocumented parishioners at her church after President Donald Trump on Feb. 21 released a stricter immigration policy that prioritizes deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes in this country.

Many undocumented people worry that under the new policy ICE agents could deport those who have even minor traffic infractions on their records, according to immigrant-rights advocates.

“I think most parishes will serve themselves well if they have a (peace and justice) team,” Jones said.

She said peace and justice team volunteers from her church plan to meet next week to “go over all the materials and make sure we understand the law ourselves so we don’t tell somebody some information that is not correct.”

Also planned at the Moorpark church is a “know your rights” meeting, which will be announced at an upcoming Mass, Jones said.

She said church officials are not announcing the time and date of the meeting beforehand in order to protect any undocumented people who show up.

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