Scared and planning for the worst: Immigrants brace for deportation

Updated 11:04 AM ET, Mon March 20, 2017

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New York (CNN)Ninety-seven people are at Catholic Charities this morning. It feels like a hospital waiting room.

The sense of anticipation is palpable: Every time a charity worker comes to the front of the room with a clipboard, everyone looks up, waiting for their names to be called. For their questions to be answered.
What happens if ICE is knocking at your door?
What kind of ID should I have?
What about my children if I get deported?
Are there forms we can fill out to sign off guardianship of our children?
Catholic Charities staff  speak with immigrants  waiting to talk to lawyers.
In past weeks, as news of ICE raids and deportations has spread, lawyers and charities have been telling immigrants, both documented and undocumented, how to prepare.
    How to make space for fear in their lives so they are not consumed by it.
    In Lower Manhattan, people begin queuing at the crack of dawn every Thursday in a Financial District high-rise to get help with their fears.
    People fill out forms as they wait their turn.
    Thirteen floors up, Catholic Charities hosts what it calls "immigration intake sessions" where people can get advice on how to apply for asylum or a green card, what to do if ICE officers knock on their doors or what rights they have as undocumented immigrants.
    Don't be afraid, these lawyers advise, but be ready.
    "It's important not to be so scared that you're afraid to leave your house, send your kids to school, or go to the hospital if you need to," says Raluca Oncioiu, director of immigration legal services at Catholic Charities. But if someone knocks on your door, the first question is: Do you have a search warrant?
    The rumors aren't true, the lawyers reassure: There are no ICE agents waiting on subway platforms. But also, always wear a seat belt, don't speed, don't drive with a broken taillight.
    And don't be afraid to go to the police if you're a victim of a crime. It won't just protect you from the crime, but it'll help safeguard anyone else who could be a victim of the same crime, the lawyers explain.
    Maribelle fears deportation, but she also wants to help her children.
    Maribelle is an undocumented immigrant, a DREAMer, from Mexico. She came to Catholic Charities because her youngest child, who's 9, receives speech therapy in school, and Maribelle wants to find out about getting him more services despite her immigration status. Like the other people we spoke to here, she was comfortable giving only her first name.
      Maribelle is also worried about getting deported. She came to the United States in 1989 when she was 5. She hasn't been to Mexico since, and she doesn't even speak Spanish.