Since the presidential election last November, fear consumes most days for Helena DaSilva Hughes at the Immigrant Assistance Center.

For nearly four months, immigrants have trekked to the brick building at 58 Crapo St. turning to the executive director of the non-profit organization for reassurance that they won’t be deported; that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents won’t lead a raid into their homes.

“That has been what I’ve been doing since the election,” DaSilva Hughes said. “It’s exhausting.”

A sense of desperation follows the fear. That mixture leaves immigrants vulnerable to fraudulent “assistance.”

“I’m always worried about when there is such a fear, there’s always scam artists that come out,” DaSilva Hughes said. “Many times it’s members of their own community.”

This article was first published in the Standard Times
by Michael Bonner

The heightened fear results from the policies put into place by the Trump administration. Last week, ICE agents detained nearly 700 people across the country. The Associated Press obtained a draft memo Friday indicating the administration is considering a proposal to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops to search for undocumented immigrants.

While the White House denied the report calling it “100 percent not true,” even before the story surfaced, the fear of a raid was ever present.

“Every time you hear about what’s happening about these raids, I just unfortunately think it’s a matter of time before they’re reaching our home again,” DaSilva Hughes said. “So I would say that’s a huge concern of ours.”

Such fears are grounded in fact. On March 6, 2007, ICE agents raided Michael Bianco Inc., a leather goods factory and Defense Department contractor in the South End. They detained 361 workers on charges they were undocumented immigrants. A decade later, the Bianco raid still resonates in the city’s immigrant community.

In the wake of the Trump administration’s moves, New York’s attorney general issued a warning of people posing at ICE agents and demanding payments from immigrants in order to avoid deportation. The Massachusetts attorney general’s office is also monitoring similar scams. Groups associated with the office are investigating scams that are targeting immigrants. While those aware of the scams can alert the attorney general, the office also encourages people to contact the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition or the PAIR Project.

DaSilva Hughes pointed to local issues such as some posing as lawyers claiming to have the ability to speed up immigration cases. It’s a path that doesn’t exist.

This type of scam targets undocumented immigrants who have children born in the United States. An American citizen can apply for his or her parents to become citizens, too. This can only happen once the son or daughter turns 21.

“The majority of these children are small right now,” DaSilva Hughes said. “…So there’s a long way before then. So that’s something that we always advise. That’s not going to happen for a very long time.”

Adrian Ventura, the executive director of Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores (CCT), echoed those concerns Wednesday night in front of more than two dozen people. He cautioned those in attendance of fraudulent lawyers and advised them to use the CCT to verify any representation.

The meeting began with the group preparing how to react if they were subject to an ICE raid. Each person was made aware of his or her rights.

The IAC will be holding a similar program on Feb. 25 where the office of the Massachusetts attorney general will be on hand to “educate, inform and answer” questions regarding the rights of immigrants.

“One of the messages I kept saying was making sure they not getting in trouble or getting in fights with gangs or substance abuse because … their chance of ever becoming a legal U.S. citizen it will die if they do any of those things,” DaSilva Hughes aid. “They’ll never have that chance.”

This article was first published in the Standard Times
by Michael Bonner