BOSTON — Democratic Rep. Lori Trahan is being criticized for offering advice over social media to legal or illegal migrants on how to deal with federal immigration crackdowns.
A post on Trahan's Facebook page titled "Know Your Rights" warned immigrants that if approached by police or agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "you don't have to reveal your immigration status and have the right to remain silent."
The post pointed out that a deportation warrant "does not authorize ICE agents to enter your home" and that someone who is being detained has the right to remain silent and to speak with a lawyer.
Trahan, a Westford Democrat, posted the advisory one day before ICE was supposed to carry out large scale immigration raids in 10 U.S. cities. Massachusetts cities weren't among those targeted in the immigration raids, which never materialized.
"Everyone has rights, regardless of status," Trahan posted. "We must make sure that all affected in our communities know them."
While a few comments on Facebook praised the freshman congresswoman for the post, many others accused her of being a "traitor" for "putting illegal immigrants ahead of her constituents."
"I'm not sure what the motivation is, but it looks like they're trying to interfere with law enforcement," Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said in response to Trahan's post. "Members of Congress shouldn't be encouraging people to hide from immigration officials. We're a nation of laws, and that undermines our system of justice."
Trahan spokesman Mark McDevitt defended the post, saying the office has fielded calls from state and local officials explaining that "people in the community are scared to leave their homes or go to church or to work." He said Trahan felt an "obligation to remind people of their rights under the U.S. Constitution."
"ICE should focus on removing individuals with serious criminal records, not hardworking members of our community," McDevitt said in a statement.
A spokesman for ICE's New England region declined to comment.
The head of the state's largest immigration advocacy group also defended the move, pointing out that immigrant communities are living in fear of mass deportations.
"These are basic rights that people should be aware of at a time when there is a lot of fear and confusion," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Boston-based Massachusetts Immigrant Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "If they're giving people information about their rights under the law, without violating any laws, I don't see anything wrong with it."
Immigrants — even those who enter the country illegally — are entitled to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. They are also entitled to legal representation and are guaranteed Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Other reps criticized
To be sure, Trahan isn't the only member of the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation facing criticism for wading into the debate over immigration raids.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Boston Democrat, is being blasted for sharing a social media post from the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on the ICE raids. Her post offered advice to immigrants in English, Spanish, Chinese, Creole and several other languages, on how to deal with ICE agents if they "show up at your door."
"We stand with our immigrant communities in opposition to this cruel, dehumanizing Administration, and rogue agencies like ICE," Pressley wrote in the July 13 post.
Pressley is one of four female members of Congress — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are the others — recently targeted by Republican President Donald Trump in a series of tweets telling them to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came." All four women are U.S. citizens.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III also shared the ACLU's post over the weekend, posting a video in Spanish and English in which he urges immigrants to "know their rights."
"It's important to know that every person in this country has rights," the Democrat said. "If there's a knock on the door, you do not have to answer it."
Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictions on immigration, said the efforts undermine law enforcement.
"It's insulting to the men and women of ICE who put their safety at risk every day going after people who are mostly criminals and should be removed from the community," she said.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.