Lawyer urges Kenyans residing illegally in US to seek legal advice

Monday February 13 2017

refugees

Protesters at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, on January 29, 2017 protest against President Trump's anti-refugees ban. Raids against illegal migrants have started. PHOTO | AFP 

By CHRIS WAMALWA
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PHILADELPHIA
Immigration experts are urging Kenyans living in the US illegally to familiarise themselves with their legal rights as President Donald Trump's administration steps up raids.

Kenyan-born Texas Immigration Attorney Sarah Wairimu Brooks says people should first seek legal counsel before engaging with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

She also said that "those who are here illegally should start saving money in their account for bond. I recommend having a savings of at least $10,000 (Sh1m) for bond".

She explained that the Kenyans must carry documents that ascertain their presence in the country.

US immigration authorities launched a series of raids, traffic stops and checkpoints in at least half a dozen states across the country on Thursday and Friday against undocumented migrants.

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency rounded up undocumented individuals living in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities.

The raids targeted those who have been charged with crime, which is different from Barack Obama's that focused more on repeat offenders or those who had been convicted with serious crimes.

Approximately, 11 million illegal migrants reside in US.

The crack downs have provoked protests in places such as Texas.

The Trump administration is facing a series of legal challenges over a recent ban on travellers from seven majority Muslim countries.

As the news of the raids spread, there was panic among the Kenyan community with many sharing their experiences and advice on social media.

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Ms Maggie Marikah Kwabena, a Kenyan Paralegal officer in Atlanta, said that Kenyans who are likely to be affected by the raids must first know their immigration status and understand the State and federal laws that apply to their circumstances.

"Then one should consult an Attorney about one’s specific circumstances and the options.

"One of the greatest things about the Trump Immigration Order that may have been lost in the background of the ban is expansion of definition of what is considered a crime as well as the empowerment of local police agencies to work with ICE agents.

"ICE officers have also been given lots more powers and discretion by the Trump administration," she said.

Ms Kwabena said everyone should ensure their documents are in order and accessible.

She cautioned against irresponsible use of social media and other communication platforms.

"People should be smart about how they seek advice and whom they trust with their life stories and what impact it may have now or in the future...Being prepared helps you think clearly in a crisis and not just react in panic," she added.

She said that Kenyans should also know bond companies in case they are charged in court and a bail is required.