Refugee Rights Card Introduced | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Refugee Rights Card Introduced

Special ID is designed to navigate encounters with the law.

Posted By on June 13, 2017, 2:36 PM

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click to enlarge Attorney Brad Parker explains what is included on a refugee rights card on Tuesday. - DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris
  • Attorney Brad Parker explains what is included on a refugee rights card on Tuesday.

Refugees in Utah who fled from a nation that deployed police as a strong-arm of the regime have a reasonable distrust for law enforcement, say members of the Refugee Justice League.

And they might also not comprehend their own rights to refuse an officer inside their homes without a warrant, or their right to silence when questioned by police.

To try to bridge the refugee community and law enforcement, the league has created a “refugee rights card.” Refugees are encouraged to carry the card with them, so that they can navigate legally tricky police encounters, should they arise.

“We know that refugees have overcome tremendous obstacles and tragic circumstances to resettle in our state and we want them to be safe here,” attorney Jim McConkie said.

The cycle of fear continues when officers ask to talk to refugees, he continued, even when they’re not suspects.

The front of the card includes the cardholder’s name and picture, lets police know that the refugee is represented by an attorney from the Refugee Justice League, includes the group’s phone number, and indicates which language the refugee is most comfortable speaking.

The back side of the card offers instructions to officers: The cardholder will not speak with an officer outside the presence of an attorney, for example. As well as guidance for refugees: “Do not resist,” one instruction reads.

Noor Ul-Hasan, a community leader and Refugee Justice League director of outreach, said she’s come across a number of cases where refugees were afraid to report instances of discrimination.

click to enlarge Jim McConkie, right, gives Noor Ul-Hasan a refugee rights card. - DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris
  • Jim McConkie, right, gives Noor Ul-Hasan a refugee rights card.
“If a refugee witnesses a crime and is approached by the police to report what they saw, they may choose to say nothing. From their experience, they’ve learned that it can be dangerous to speak to the police,” Ul-Hasan said. “In their mind, it is not unusual for the police to fabricate evidence and expect witnesses to go along with it.”

Ul-Hasan received the first ceremonial card on Tuesday at the Parker & McConkie law offices at 5664 S. Green St.

McConkie commended the Salt Lake City Police Department, adding that the Refugee Justice League sought out input from law enforcement. “We feel compelled to help facilitate the relationship between refugees and law enforcement,” he said.

The Refugee Justice League is reaching out to churches, mosques and community centers to educate refugees about the rights cards.

Law partner Brad Park said the league provides free legal assistance from one of about 300 attorneys to refugees.

“The league’s refugee rights card initiative is the first of its kind in the country,” he said. “It is unique because associated with the card is the league’s offer of free legal assistance.”

McConkie added the Refugee Justice League held legal seminars, but they decided that approach wasn’t working.

“We could educate refugees until the cows come home, and six months later, an officer knocks at their door and they say, ‘I forgot everything I learned, and I don’t know what to do, and I understood half of what they told me because of language problems,’” he said. “So we thought, if we can just teach that if you have a problem with police and are fearful, all you have to do is reach into your wallet.”

If the police continue to interrogate after learning that the refugee is represented by counsel, the police risk breaking the law.

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