Here’s what life is like when you’re undocumented…
At 16, you’re supposed to drive. You’re supposed to be able to get a job. You’re supposed to work toward college. But when you’re undocumented, all these things become impossible.
This young woman was rejected from every college she applied to because of her status – until finally she was accepted by one. Given this newfound opportunity, she slayed and graduated.
But it wasn’t just her graduating because when an immigrant graduates, or the child of an immigrant graduates, the entire family walks down that stage. It’s a victory for everyone. It’s reassurance that every sacrifice you and / or your parents made; leaving your country, your job, your life, being called all those names… All those moments were validated.
Here’s what her dad said weeks leading up to her graduation:
“Para mí, va a ser el premio mayor. Va a ser algo por lo cual yo trabajé. Mi esposa a mi lado siempre trabajando y va a ser la graduación de nosotros… Va a ser lo máximo para mí.”
The original wording of the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution stated, that “‘each man’s home is his castle,’ secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.” A revised version states, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In other words, authorities cannot probe into people’s private information, home or belongings, without probable cause. Those laws apply to everyone, right? That’s not what some officials in one city in the United States believe. They’re claiming those laws do not apply to undocumented immigrants.
In 2017, police were called to check on a domestic abuse suspect in Southaven, Mississippi. They went to the wrong house and shot and killed Ismael Lopez.
On a late Sunday evening, in July of 2017, police were called to serve a warrant for the arrest of a suspected domestic abuser named Samuel Pearman. His address was 5878 Surrey Lane, CNN reported, and police ended up going to a mobile home across the street where Ismael Lopez lived with his wife. Police entered Lopez’s home and ended up shooting him in the back of the head. He died on the scene.
“It is so troubling to learn that not only this man died but that this man died running away from people who were trespassing on his premises after he was in bed lawfully,” Murray Wells, an attorney representing the Lopez’s family, told reporters, according to CNN.
The Lopez family filed a $20 million lawsuit for his death after a jury failed to indict the police officers on the scene. The City of Southaven fired back with their own lawsuit saying Lopez has no rights under the constitution because he was an undocumented immigrant.
This case is like most cases involving the police, the investigation had conflicting reports. Lopez’s wife claims the police came in unannounced, and the lawyer says bullet holes outside of the home support her story. The police say that Lopez pointed a gun at them. However, Lopez’s wife said that wasn’t the case. The police also shot and killed their dog. City attorneys are also questioning the credibility of Lopez’s widow, with claims they were never married, and that she was married to multiple men. Lopez’s attorney showed the documents to prove they were legally married in 2003.
“It’s a real shame that they have to use these tactics to soil someone’s name when she lost her partner, the love of her life, in a tragic accident,” attorney Aaron Neglia said according to the Washington Post.
So, does the constitution protect undocumented immigrants? The answer is a resounding yes even though the matter is still taken up in courts all the time.
“Yes, without question,” Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School told PBS. “Most of the provisions of the Constitution apply on the basis of personhood and jurisdiction in the United States.”
Undocumented immigrants have the right to legal counsel, under the Sixth Amendment, they also have the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. So, if the courts are already practicing the law under the constitution when it applies to undocumented immigrants, then the Fourth Amendment and all of them for that matter apply to them as well.
Southaven attorneys have a different point of view. According to the Washington Post,attorney Katherine S. Kerby wrote, “If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. Ismael Lopez may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit.”
For the past 250 years, the United States has used an offensive term to describe foreigners as aliens. It’s a term that dates back to 1765 and was first documented to be used by an English jurist and politician named William Blackstone. According to Foreign Policy, Blackstone wrote in “Commentaries on the Laws of England” that “aliens” — “derived from the Latin term alienus, meaning ‘foreigner’ or ‘outsider’ — as people born outside the king’s ‘dominions,’ or territory over which the monarch rules (including the land that later became the United States).” However, in our modern language, the term “alien” has always been used typically to describe an extraterrestrial, a creature from outer space. So, it makes sense that a word to describe creatures from outer space and foreigners is seen as substantially different and also offensively wrong.
The City of New York has had enough with people using the term “illegal aliens” when describing undocumented immigrants so now they will fine people $250,000 if they use it.
On Sept. 26, the NYC Commission on Human Rights announced they are going to great lengths to stop people from spreading hate in the city, and if people violate the city’s mandates they will pay a hefty fee. One of the new rules includes the use of the words “illegal aliens.”
While the government continues to use the term “illegal alien,” especially the Trump Administration, it’s been widely known that using that term to describe undocumented immigrants is offensive. Some have also connected it to hate speech. Several news organizations have said they would stop using that term and instead use the correct wording, “undocumented immigrants,” especially because immigration advocates, say “no human is illegal.”
There’s more! The city of New York is also making it illegal to threaten to call ICE on anyone.
We’ve seen time and time again, people threatening others that they would call ICE on them as a way to intimidate, harass, and exude power over someone. New York City is saying that no longer will be allowed.
“The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most protective in the nation,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, said in a press release. “It protects everyone, regardless of their immigration status. In the face of increasingly hostile national rhetoric, we will do everything in our power to make sure our treasured immigrant communities are able to live with dignity and respect, free of harassment and bias. Today’s guidance makes abundantly clear that there is no room for discrimination in NYC.”
Last but not least, the City of New York is also banning people from telling others they can’t speak Spanish. If anyone harasses someone and tells them to stop speaking Spanish, they will have to pay $250,000.
While New York City is perhaps one of the most diverse and liberal cities in the world, there have been several examples of racist people living in NYC. We’ve seen several viral moments on social media that shows racist people telling Spanish-speaking people to speak English instead. That all ends with the city’s new mandates.
“We are proud to have worked with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to produce and release this important guidance as we combat the federal government’s rhetoric of fear and xenophobic policies that have threatened the health and well-being of immigrant communities,” Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said. “Harassment and discrimination based on one’s actual or perceived immigration status, national origin, limited English proficiency, or accent will never be tolerated in our City of 3.2 million immigrants.”
So, one more time for the people in the back. If you are caught or reported to have done any of these things in New York City, you could be charged hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Specific violations of immigration status and national origin protections include:
Harassing a restaurant patron because of their accent.
Refusing repairs on a unit occupied by an immigrant family and threatening to call ICE if they complain.
Paying a lower wage or withholding wages to workers because of their immigration status
Harassing a store customer by telling them to stop speaking their language and demanding they speak English.
For more information on the new NYC Human Rights Law, click here.