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Immigration 101: Do Not Get Yourself on the Spot

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Annual deportations have increased over 400 percent since 1996 and more than a million people have been removed from this country since the beginning of the Obama administration.

On top of that, many states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama have declared a war against undocumented Latino immigrants. For those reasons and because almost every day many people arrive at her office asking for help because they are awaiting their deportation, Jessica Dominguez decided to take the fight out of her office to inform people before it's too late and it gets to the courts.

This weekend, Jessica Dominguez, a specialized immigration attorney since 2002, best known as "El Angel de La Justicia," started a free immigration forum in a city with more Spanish-speaking immigrants proportionally than in the whole country, to inform them what they need to know and do in order to avoid being part of those statistics.

The event was celebrating the Immigrant Day at the First Baptist Church in Maywood and people from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico participated with their music, food and a lot of questions for La abogada.

However, before answering the public's questions, she provided basic and important information regarding immigration. Not only did she share her experience and knowledge, but also played videos with real life stories and people's mistakes so people could comprehend more easily.

But she emphasized loud and clear: No se metan a la boca del lobo, or do not get yourself in the spot.

Among the innumerable advice the most common was: Do no sign your voluntary exit, do not open the door to an immigration officer until you see a warrant at your house and remain silent, but ask for a consulate attorney or call an organization that works with immigrants to talk to.

She even brought a video where a retired immigration officer gave some advice to the people. She explained the latest with Obama's administration on immigration and how to get prepared in case an immigration reform is approved. However, she was sincere and told the audience not to hold their hopes on it anytime soon.

One of the things she highly stressed out was to always maintain good behavior. She also commented how some immigrants have been able to save their case because of their good moral character and their community involvement for a better society.

La abogada also brought Justino with her; a Dream Act student from UCLA to explain to all the parents' the importance for young people to have their support and encourage them to get involved not only in their kids' education but also on the undocumented students cause.

After almost 2 hours into presentation, none of the 100 seated in the room moved out of their seats. La abogada took everyone's question and spent another 3 hours responding until the last immigrant was gone.

I had the opportunity to be in that room with the rest of the people and feel the passion and the level of commitment from la abogada. Probably because she was an illegal immigrant not too long ago.

She was 14 when she was brought to this country from Peru and at one point she had to work 3 jobs to continue her school. Having one child that required special education didn't stop her, but encouraged her to finish law school and in less than 10 years of career she has been able to help more than 2,000 families stay together in the United States.

Helping people in court is her profession and she does it with tremendous level of success, but it is not what she does best, because her passion is helping the immigrants to not get deported and keeping their families together.

This passion and the sky high numbers of deportations during the Obama administration is precisely the spark of the idea on taking the immigration fight out of the court rooms and taking it to the unwelcome ground (Alabama and Arizona). She believes that if the immigrants are informed and knows what to do; many of them will be able to stay in this country.

At the end of the presentation I was asking the people if they believed that the surname" El Angel de la Justicia" was mere marketing and one of them said, "Believe me, she really is trying to help us because she is an immigrant and was undocumented. She is one of us and the only thing she is doing is giving us the tools so we can avoid getting ourselves in the spot and getting deported. If she is not a real angel, she is the closest I've ever seen".

Agustín Duran has been a reporter in Los Angeles for the last 15 years and currently is an editor from Latinocalifornia.com