A new series of animated films from the American Civil Liberties Union seeks to help immigrants know their rights so they can better protect themselves when interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
On Tuesday, the ACLU and legal defense group Brooklyn Defender Services released four animated short films in seven languages as part of a new “We have rights” campaign. The films are narrated by celebrities, including actor Jesse Williams narrating the English films; actress Diane Guerrero, the Spanish; and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, the Urdu. The films cover four common situations immigrants may have to confront: what to do if ICE is at their door, in their home, in their neighborhood, or arrests them.
“It’s to provide information to [immigrant] communities, but also to expose a broader American public to ICE’s tactics, to what’s actually happening to immigrant communities,” Natalie Montelongo, campaign strategist with ACLU’s immigrant rights division, told HuffPost Friday.
The videos come out amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Arrests of undocumented immigrants increased by 30 percent during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to ICE. Last June, ICE director Thomas Homan said undocumented immigrants should “look over [their] shoulder.”
The animated films were each based on real stories of immigrants’ interactions with ICE, Montelongo said. In one video, a man named Samir walks home from the store when two ICE agents approach without identifying themselves. They begin to question him and ultimately arrest him. The video then explains that if anyone is arrested, they should stay silent and ask to speak to a lawyer. It also notes that bystanders can record the interaction and ask the agents for identification.
The videos are meant to help ensure that all-too-common and unjust situations, such as people unknowingly signing self-deportation documents, don’t occur as often, Montelongo said.
They also seek to inform all Americans about what Montelongo calls ICE’s “overreach.” She noted recent instances of ICE carrying out operations in “sensitive areas” that agents used to avoid, such as courthouses and hospitals. Since Trump took office, there has also been a rise in deportations of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions.
“They’re using these tactics to terrorize the immigrant community,” Montelongo said.
Beyond the videos, ACLU’s “We have rights” website will feature a tool to help immigrants create “emergency preparedness plans,” such as a document laying out who children should call if ICE detains their undocumented parent.
In the months to come, the group plans to roll out an “on the ground” campaign, including training people to be “legal observers,” to identify instances where ICE may be violating immigrants’ rights and encourage them to record the interaction.
“We’re going to keep looking for ways to protect and inform this community,” Montelongo said, “especially under this administration.”