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‘Know Your Rights’ Effort Helps Empower Undocumented Immigrants


Immigration enforcements happen throughout the year. But with the recent warnings about nationwide ICE raids, some are using the opportunity to educate undocumented immigrants about their rights. 

Twice a month, community activist Isai Ambrosio delivers food to local farm workers in the fields. He pours out big bags of red onions, carrots and potatoes into bins in the back of a white van. 

“Our clients are low-income families. So this extra food helps a lot,” says Ambrosio. 

Ambrosio is the Program Director at the Davenport Resource Service Center. It’s a community center in the small coastal town of Davenport. The center offers summer recreation programs, legal services and food distributions. 

With the recent warnings about nationwide Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, Ambrosio decided to bring something else along during his mid-July food delivery - “Red Cards.” They’re small enough to fit in a wallet.  On one side is a list of rights everyone has regardless of immigration status; like the right to remain silent and not open the door to their home. 

“Just in case ICE comes to their homes or workplace, they can give out cards to ICE,” says Ambrosio.

The other side of the card has a message for ICE.  It reads, “I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, or sign or hand you any documents based on my 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.” 

Various organizations print these red cards, including the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. It sends nonprofits the cards for free.  

With the cards and food loaded up, Ambrosio heads out. He visits about 11 farms in northern Santa Cruz County each month. During every stop, Ambrosio fills the farm workers’ grocery bags with vegetables and canned goods. And this time, he hands each person a small stack of red cards. That way they can pass some along. 

Ambrosio hopes this information empowers these farm workers. Farm workers like Sergio.  We’re only using his first name because he is undocumented. He says he immigrated to the U.S. about 30 years ago from Mexico. 



“Yes, well, when you know all of your rights you feel more at ease, because if they stop you and say something to you, you can tell them what you know,” Sergio says in Spanish. Bob Gomez translated the interview.

We have to respond with power not panic - Adriana Melgoza

“We have to respond with power not panic,” says Adriana Melgoza.

Melgoza works at the Watsonville Law Center.  The center provides free legal help to low-income individuals on the Central Coast, including undocumented immigrants. 

She says when President Trump tweets about ICE raids, it can be traumatizing for immigrant communities. 

“You see families who are in constant fear and it raises anxiety for the entire family. It's not just the person who is undocumented,” says Melgoza. 

And she says some people don’t show up to work.

“Especially in fields their agricultural fields that are not showing up to work. They're afraid.”

This week, Melgoza gave a “Know Your Rights” presentation during a community event in Salinas.

“And that, I think it's a positive thing that our community is coming together to say, no, we will not allow this type of mistreatment for anyone in our community,” Melgoza says. 

Central Coast Congressman Jimmy Panetta joined Melgoza at that event.  He also shared the information in this YouTube video.  

“If an immigration enforcement officer demands to come into your home, make sure that he or she has a search warrant that is signed by a judge. And remember, a deportation warrant is not a search warrant,” Panetta said. 

Isai Ambrosio says he plans to continue handing out red cards during his food deliveries.

“We're going to do that at least every month, or every time we have a chance,” he says. 

More “Know Your Rights” events are being planned for communities in South Monterey County.


Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.