Living as an undocumented person in America comes with its own set of complications, fears, and uncertainties. Thanks to new legislature and executive orders from the Trump administration demanding wave after wave of removals over the past year, it has become even more difficult for them to live as integral parts of their communities. In Chicago alone where the undocumented population crosses well over a quarter of a million, it is quite likely that someone in your area might identify as one of the country’s most vilified demographic. If you are a citizen or resident, here are some actions you can take to inform yourself about deportations and protect your community.

Educate Yourself on the Deportation Process

One of the most important steps you can take to inform yourself and your community is to understand the basics and details of deportation law, both nationally and locally. Be sure to visit your local library or attend relevant university lectures to research and inform oneself about these laws. According to FindLaw, the points below include the beginnings of a deportation case:

  • A Notice to Appear (NTA) is issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, served to the alien, and filed with the immigration court. In addition to containing general information about the immigrant (name, country of origin, etc.), the NTA also states the reasons for the deportation or removal.
  • A hearing is scheduled, at which the immigration judge asks if the alien is ready to proceed with the case, or if he or she needs time to secure an attorney. If the alien needs time to secure an attorney, a hearing is scheduled for a later date.

Listen to Undocumented Narratives

Though it is necessary to familiarize yourself with laws concerning deportation, what often isn’t communicated by the books is just how traumatic and devastating the process can be. To challenge stereotypes or assumptions you may have about undocumented people, actively seek out and engage with immigrants and undocumented people in your community. Respectfully ask if they are willing to share their story with you, and if they are, listen with the intention to understand their perspectives. Try not to interrupt them with your own interpretation of their narratives or invalidate their struggles as an immigrant or undocumented person. By engaging them on a regular basis, not only will you foster empathy for undocumented populations, your community will grow closer together as a result.

While following these steps, you might find yourself feeling discomfort or anger, but be sure to channel these emotions in a positive way. Acknowledge that these steps (and more) are necessary in order to strengthen our understanding of the law as citizens and residents who are invested in community action and outreach. Whether you are already familiar with the basics of deportation law or have a limited understanding of Chicago’s undocumented population, these tips should help you on your journey to protect your community.

If you or someone you know might be at risk for deportation, please visit this page of Salah Legal Services to learn more about the process.