By Cynthia Laguna
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California held “Know Your Rights,” a presentation discussing Proposition 47 and other laws in the Auditorium Foyer last Thursday.
The ELAC Students for Political Awareness Club teamed up with ACLU to construct a powerpoint presentation with information on what to do if ever arrested or questioned by authorities.
The presentation provided students with different informational fliers about voting as well as ACLU’s purpose.
The assembly was opened by ESPA President Joseph Nuñez who introduced guest speaker Jessica Farris of the policy and advocacy counsel at ACLU of Southern California.
Farris explained the importance of voting for Prop. 47 on Nov. 4. Prop. 47 would reduce the penalty for most nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors which in return would decrease prison population and save hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lucero Chavez, Immigrant Rights staff attorney of the ACLU, also explained how all people, no matter their status, have rights under the Constitution of the United States.
Chavez said that if a person is stopped by police, either in the street or at a college or university, always remember to be polite and remain calm. Never give false information, carry a fake identification card and always have the number of an attorney or organization that can help if an attorney cannot be retained.
Everyone has the right to remain silent, the right to refuse consent to a search of yourself or belongings and the right to an attorney whether arrested by police or U.S. immigration officials.
People should be aware of the area they are in at all times, Chavez said. Police can be searching for suspicious activity, witnesses or looking out for public safety, and that could be why a person is stopped or questioned.
The same rights apply when a person is stopped in their vehicle or on a college or university campus. The only difference is when the police knocks on a person’s door to search his or her home.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, people have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, which means that government agents must have a warrant to search and seize your person and property.
If ever arrested, the detained person should ask for an attorney, a list of free legal services in the area or for a list of the contact information for all consulates and not sign any papers without talking to an attorney first.
An important point discussed was prosecutorial discretion, which refers to the power of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to either open or close a case in which the person detained can apply for amnesty.
ELAC Professor Consuelo Rey-Castro has been involved with ACLU in the “Know Your Rights” teach-in/workshops since last year provide information in regards to legal matters, such as protecting citizens’ rights.
“The reality of everyday life is such, that if you don’t know what your rights are, you won’t know it when your rights have been violated and taken away from you,” Rey-Castro said.
Rey-Castro said that it was important for students to know what to do when, for example, they experience sexual harassment, are facing immigration processes or have been stopped or arrested.
ESPA’s primary purpose is to unite students and increase awareness in regards of social and political matters throughout the campus and community.
“The uninformed leave the door open for people to take advantage of (their) ignorance… and the first step to protecting our rights is to know them,” Nuñez said.
He hopes that the club’s meetings will encourage students to become informed and welcomes everyone to attend an ESPA meeting that are held every Thursday at 12:15-1:30 p.m. in F7-217.
Students can easily access information provided by ACLU on its website at aclusocal.org.
The page provides information about issues, court cases, the community and government. People can donate and join through the website as well as volunteering for upcoming events and campaigns.