Immigrants urged to learn their rights, stay involved
Immigrants concerned about their futures in the United States in Republican Donald Trump's upcoming presidential administration were urged to stay calm and educate themselves about their rights during a forum Monday night in Mundelein.
About 150 people filled the gym at Washington Elementary School to hear speakers including representatives of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills and Mundelein Public Safety Director Eric Guenther.
Many questions concerned deportation -- something Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign would happen to people living in the United States illegally.
The questions, asked by a moderator, included "How can I talk to my kids about this?" and "Should I be afraid if I have no criminal record?"
Guenther handled that latter question early in the session with one word -- "No."
"Just go about your business as you normally would," Guenther said, his words being translated into Spanish by police Cmdr. Fred Kliora.
To be eligible for deportation, Guenther said, someone must be convicted of a serious felony, such as robbery, burglary or murder.
"I'm not going to come knocking on your door for very minor things," he said.
Marcelino Miranda of the Mexican Consulate tried to assure audience members that they won't be deported starting Jan. 20 -- the day Trump will take office.
"Not everybody is going to be deported," he said. "There haven't been any official announcements yet. There's just been rhetoric during the campaign."
Miranda urged people to get legal advice from lawyers or the consulate. Others on the dais said people need to learn their legal rights, attend meetings and speak with their elected representatives.
"If you start receding into the shadows ... we cannot help you," said state Rep. Lisa Hernandez of Cicero.
Magen Ryan, a staffer for Congressman-elect Brad Schneider of Deerfield, said Schneider's office will be a resource for people concerned about their immigration statuses and futures.
"Knowledge is power," Ryan said.
The event was organized by the village and representatives from Mundelein High School District 120, Mundelein Elementary School District 75 and Diamond Lake School District 76.