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La Liga de Las Americas

Immigrant identity, rights, services discussed at C-Space

By Arooj Ashraf, Cleveland Correspondent for La Prensa


World People Exchange hosted an immigration identity and education day at C-Space in Cleveland on February 10, 2007. The afternoon program highlighted various services available to immigrants and their legal rights in the United States.


Cleveland attorney Jennifer Peyton discussed the status of the defunct immigration bills that passed the U.S. House in 2005 and the U.S. Senate in 2006.


She says there were several negative components in the Senate reform bill but she would have accepted them because it was a beginning to immigration reform. Selective military service was an option in that bill.


Peyton drew a parallel between World War I and the U.S.-Iraq War II. She concluded that it couldn’t be coincidental that Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship on March 2, 1917 via the Jones-Shafroth Act during the peak of World War I; or that President George W. Bush began to advocate for immigration reform in 2006, when the current war took a sharp turn towards quagmire.


She cautions it might be her personal dislike of the current president but his support may just be a saving-face tactic for his “buddies in Texas” as he prepares to return to that state at the end of his term.


She urges migrants to understand their immigration rights.


“You have options, even if you get picked up by the authorities,” she says, “and everyone has the right to a hearing and a lawyer.” A prior deportation order or a specified criminal conviction is the only scenario with limited recourse.


Peyton encourages advocacy—asking citizens to write to federal senators and representatives and to exercise their vote.


Legal rights and the use of consulates

“You have the right to remain silent,” says Roció Magali Maciel Franco, the Detroit representative from the Consulado de Carrera de México, or Mexican Consulate.


Maciel-Franco believes that silence implies automatic guilt in México but in the United States it can prevent matters from getting out of control. Keeping mute during an arrest, may also prompt the judiciary system to provide free translation services. “Never sign anything you don’t understand,” cautions Maciel-Franco.


Maciel-Franco says the Mexican Consulate in Detroit is working with authorities to make them aware of the cultural differences and offers simple advice. “Obey the laws, drive carefully, don’t be so loud.”


“Under the Geneva Convention regulations, every Mexican has a right to contact us,” says Maciel-Franco. She adds that the consulate has to abide by the host-country’s laws and can not assist with releasing an inmate but can connect them with lawyers.


She noted that the procedures to obtaining Mexican passports has changed and requires now an appointment.


There are 47 Mexican Consulates in the United States, which provide services like passport renewals, connecting family members with those detained, providing transportation in case of deaths or medical problems, and intervening in work-related issues—“Use them if you are a Mexican citizen,” she urges.


A list of locations of these consulates can be found at: http://www.sre.gob.mx/acerca/directorio/consulados/dirconsulados.htm


The Mexican Consulates travel throughout their districts, providing services to those unable to reach the central office locations in Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago. A complete schedule of these mobile dates can be obtained from the respective consulates. 


Vicente Margarito Sánchez Ventura is the Cónsul Titular (General Consul) at the Detroit Consulate, which assists the Mexican populations in Michigan and Northern Ohio. The office in Indianapolis aids Indiana and Southern Ohio.


Guest Raymundo Gómez said these tours won’t help the community unless the people know about them well in advance. He said ethnic media are helpful but often limited in their reach because so many don’t have the time or ability to obtain this information. He recommends that the Mexican Consulate create regional directories with essential contacts that can be widely distributed.


For the Midwest regions, online directories are available at: www.sre.gob.mx/acerca/directorio/consulados/detroit.htmwww.sre.gob.mx/acerca/directorio/consulados/indianapolis.htm,

www.sre.gob.mx/acerca/directorio/consulados/chicago.htm, or



Ruth M. Rubio-Pino a Spanish interpreter says the courts are required to provide translators to people with English-language deficiencies. Yet, to defer the cost, courts often dismiss interpreters by asking defendants basic questions. Peyton says it is essential to use a qualified interpreter who can accurately articulate the details of legal matters.


Rubio-Pino says legal jargon is complicated for even a fluent English speaker to comprehend. 


Chicahua Necahual shared her personal struggle in defining and understanding her biracial heritage and identity. “When we assimilate, we lose our culture. Be proud of your heritage and culture!” she exclaims.


She says the continent was stolen by the European settlers from the indigenous populations and that the vigilante killing of ‘brown’ people across the states is an ongoing holocaust that has been taking place for 500 years.


“Prejudice is a sign of ignorance,” Necahual says, who further advocates breaking away from the term Latino to define identity.


“This whole nation is built on immigration and we need respect,” she says.


Don Bryant, director of World People Exchange, echoes her sentiments, saying this “event promotes the values of an immigrant nation.”






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