Activist's smartphone app gives advice on deportation laws
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A Utah-based immigration activist launched a Spanish-language smartphone application Friday designed to assist those facing detention and deportation proceedings for being in the country illegally.

David Morales, a 21-year-old undocumented immigrant, began working on the application in October and was inspired to do so after he was detained in Las Cruces, N.M., by U.S. Border Patrol in June when the bus he was on was stopped and searched.

Morales, who is also known as Deyvid Morales, said he got up and told people on the bus that they had the right to remain silent in both English and Spanish. But it wasn't until he was released several hours later — Morales' deportation case had been administratively closed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyers earlier in the year — when he began to think about others riding on buses facing similar situations.

"I can't be in every bus telling them their rights, but I could make something that would be like if I was in the bus and telling them what their rights were," Morales said. "So I thought of an app."

He worked with the Seattle-based software group Subsplash, which is focused on developing Christian-based applications for smartphones and counts more than 600 titles to its credit.

The free application called "Derechos Herencia" takes users through a series of menus that are guided by the law enforcement agency an undocumented immigrant might encounter. Those agencies include the Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local police.

It explains immigrant rights in Spanish (Morales said an English language version would available at a future date) and it also includes links to petitions for illegal immigrants facing deportation proceedings as well as an ability to sign petitions geared toward immigrant rights.

Mark Alvarez, a Salt Lake City-based lawyer who works closely with the immigrant community, said he reviewed the application and said the design toward pushing activism was one of its more unique features.

He also said it was smart to target an application for the Hispanic community.

According to a 2012 survey by NielsenWire, 57.3 percent of Hispanics use smartphones — trailing only Asian-Americans in terms of smartphone usage.

Dan Kowalski, an immigration lawyer based in Texas, said the application was great.

"This is a very good thing," he said. "So many people in immigration stops and arrests — just out of fear — start talking and cook their own goose. This is great information."

Thematically, it is similar to the cards provided by the American Civil Liberties Union that outline the rights of undocumented immigrants as well as several smartphone applications that outline a person's individual rights when facing law enforcement during a protest.

Morales said he hoped the application — also available on iPads and Android phones — would be used by not only those who need the assistance but those who support immigrant rights.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero