For the undocumented, trust may feel like a trap.Â Even when speaking to an attorney, it can be frightening to discuss papers and status.
â€œI take the intake calls, and usually [the undocumented] will have someone like a friend call, or at least theyâ€™re covering it up,â€ says Kathy Silberberg, human resources administrator at AzulaySeiden Law Group, the largest immigration law firm in Chicago.Â â€œPeople are afraid to say that theyâ€™re here illegally.â€
So who can the undocumented trust?
For legal advice, Silberberg says the undocumented can safely seek advice from an immigration attorney, or from an organization accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
â€œItâ€™s really impossible for someone to be able to understand the full law unless they are practicing it and know it well,â€ Silberberg says.Â â€œSometimes itâ€™s simply a church or community organization that really has the best of intentions and doesnâ€™t really have a full knowledge of the law and all the complexities that could put someone in danger.â€
In Chicago, a 2006 ordinance designated Chicago as a â€œsanctuary city,â€ which means that public service organizations are not permitted to ask about immigration status.Â â€œ[The ordinance covers] any and all city services, thatâ€™s across the board,â€ says Kenneth Gunn, first deputy commissioner for the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.
However, the intricacies of the sanctuary cityâ€™s blanket of protection are a little less clear.Â Gunn says although organizations are not permitted to ask about an immigrantâ€™s status, he does not believe the law prohibits an organization from reporting the undocumented to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if their status should otherwise be revealed.
At Apna Ghar, a Chicago shelter for victims of domestic abuse, a confidentiality clause prevents employees from divulging a clientâ€™s immigration status.Â â€œWeâ€™re not mandated to report anything,â€ says Neha Gile, a supervisor of legal advocacy.Â â€œItâ€™s safe to seek social services.Â What Iâ€™ve been told by immigration is that they pursue people who are undocumented who come into the system because of a crime or something they did.â€
Silberberg says most non-profits have privacy policies, but some, depending on the source of their funding, can be prohibited from providing services to undocumented individuals.
â€œWe donâ€™t have any specific policies for any groups of people. Some of that is left to pantries and kitchens that are members,â€ says Bob Dolgan, director of communications for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.Â He says some locations might ask for identification, but they specifically would not ask about an immigrantâ€™s status.
â€œAnybody in need of food in the community can turn to our network,â€ Dolgan adds.Â â€œThere is a set of standards and guidelines in place that makes that process dignified and respectful.â€
Emergency Medicaid will cover the undocumented, but sources say an emergency room visit may cause problems if an immigrant later tries to apply for legal status.Â Cook County Health and Hospitals System was unavailable for comment, but one source who was not willing to be identified said health services should be covered under the City of Chicago sanctuary ordinance.
The safest option, sources say, is to inquire about an organizationâ€™s confidentiality policy before seeking services.