A New Jersey State Bar Foundation grant is helping to fund an Elizabeth-based non-profit organization’s “Know Your Rights” training program for immigrants.
Make the Road New Jersey supports low-income, immigrant communities through legal and support services, community organizing, and more. The organization offers a variety of services including English language classes, worker safety seminars, youth college counseling and “Know Your Rights” trainings in Elizabeth, Passaic, and other locations across the state.
“To be able to exert your rights you have to know them,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey. “Immigrant communities are in a situation where federal agents are violating their constitutional rights left and right. It’s leading to families being separated, and longtime New Jersey residents being detained. (Some are) undocumented, some legal residents, others are even citizens.”
Since the beginning of the Trump administration, New Jersey has seen a 42 percent increase in arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Cullinane said. “We’re finding the community members we serve, and immigrants across New Jersey, are being picked up at home in the middle of the night, at work, while dropping their children off at school, and at the courthouses,” Cullinane said.
“We provide comprehensive and interactive trainings to immigrant community members and their families so they can know their rights when interacting with ICE.”
The trainings cover ideas like the right to remain silent and the warrant requirements. The trainees are shown what a judicial warrant looks like in comparison to the administrative warrant that an ICE officer usually presents, Cullinane said.
Attendees also learn about how to properly document raids, as well as the kinds of papers one needs to have on hand if the head of the household is detained. Power of attorney is an important service often attached to the trainings, she said. She estimated that Make the Road New Jersey, with staff attorneys and pro bono help, has set up more than 500 power of attorney documents so parents can specify who has power of attorney and guardianship of their children if they are detained.
The NJSBF is the charitable arm of the New Jersey State Bar Association. The foundation receives 12.5 percent of the net revenue from New Jersey lawyer IOLTA accounts, and disburses those funds for public programs on justice and education about the law.
Foundation executive board members include Susan Feeney, NJSBF president; Norberto A. Garcia, first vice president; Kathleen N. Fennelly, second vice president; Charles J. Stoia, treasurer; Ralph J. Lamparello, secretary; and Lynne Fontaine Newsome, immediate past president.