The Spanish-language network Telemundo is responding to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration by setting up phone banks where viewers can call in for free legal advice.
The Philadelphia affiliate, Telemundo62, will hold its third telethon Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
During the last event in May, more than 100 people called in over the 90-minute program, network officials said.
“The phones were constantly ringing. As soon as you would hang up with one caller, the phone would start ringing again,” said Sarah Caruso, an immigration lawyer based in Moorestown, New Jersey, and one of the 18 bilingual attorneys participating in Thursday’s event.
That did not surprise Philadelphia attorney Joseph Hohenstein who has been in the field for more than 20 years. He said the telethons have attracted many immigrants who are worried about changes in immigration enforcement under Trump and have a “thirst” for accurate information from licensed attorneys.
“There were times people were calling just to confirm something they had been told,” Hohenstein said.
Caruso said the No. 1 question callers had was about what to do if they or family members are detained by federal immigration officials.
“What I usually tell them is that they need to get in touch with an attorney right away, and I give them a list of information the attorney will want to hear,” she said.
While the lawyers will be filmed answering questions, callers can remain anonymous — and their conversations will not be broadcast.
Without more information, however, there are limits to how much they can help, the attorneys said. Depending on a caller’s circumstances, there are often only two options: One is to recommend following up with an immigration attorney who can review documents and other sensitive information.
“The other form of advice often is, ‘You need to just not do anything because you will create a problem for yourself if you do,’ ” Hohenstein said.
Due to previously high call volume, the number will be posted on the screen when the program begins at 5 p.m., according to Telemundo62.