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I am currently writing a 20 week series prepping clients who are studying for the citizenship test.  Each week I will discuss five of the 100 potential test questions with the correct answer and a brief explanation.

We proudly serve immigrant clients from Virginia and North Carolina, including Surry, Stokes, Wilkes, Yadkin, Alleghany, Ashe, Forsyth, Rockingham, Guilford, Carroll, Grayson, Galax, Patrick, Pulaski, Wythe, Smyth, and Floyd Counties. We also serve criminal clients from Surry County, North Carolina.

Know Your Rights: A Guide for Immigrants

Holly Wilcox

We know this is a difficult time, and many of our clients are afraid of policy changes under President Trump.  This blog post explains your rights when interacting with the police and immigration officers.  

What should you do when you encounter the police or immigration officers? 

You should ask whether you are being detained or arrested. 

If they say no: 

  • Ask if you can leave.  If they say yes, calmly leave.  If they say no, then you are, in fact, being detained.  At this point, you may exercise your rights to remain silent and speak with an attorney. 

If they say yes: 

  • You have the right to remain silent.  You do not have to answer any questions they ask you.  You do not have to answer if they ask you your immigration status, or how or when you entered the United States.  You do not have to provide them with your name, birthdate, or A-number.  (Keep in mind this may result in you being charged with a minor crime for not providing identity information, but if you give them the answer to these questions, they can immediately begin deportation proceedings.) 
  • You have the right to speak with an attorney and have an attorney present when the officers question you.  If you ask for an attorney, the officers must not ask you questions until an attorney is present.  Ask to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
    • If you are being charged with a crime, you have the right to have a court-appointed attorney or public defender.  This means that you do not have to find an attorney, one will be provided for you.  It also means that you do not have to pay for the attorney up front, and if you are found not guilty, you will not have to pay for the attorney at all.  This attorney should know what consequences a criminal conviction will have on your immigration proceedings, and should inform you of these risks.
    • Unfortunately, you are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer for immigration proceedings.  However, you should still ask for one.  You will be given the opportunity to call an attorney you know, or call a family member and have them find an attorney for you.  While you are waiting on the attorney to arrive, you should not answer any questions the officers ask you. 

What should you do if the police or immigration comes to your home? 

Police and immigration officers generally cannot enter your home without a warrant. 

You have the right to see this warrant, but do not open the door.  Opening the door may be construed as consent for the officers to enter.  Instead, ask them to slide the warrant under the door so you can read it.  

Make sure the warrant is legitimate.  If it gives the officer permission to take property, make sure they one take that property and nothing else. If it gives the officer permission to search your home, make sure they only search the rooms listed on the warrant.  If they have no warrant ,calmly explain that you do not want to open the door until they have a warrant. 

When interacting with the police or immigration, do not: 

  • Run away
  • Use or threaten to use force against the officers
  • Use false documents
  • Panic.  Even though you may be afraid, try to stay calm so that you can keep a clear head and not say or do anything you may regret.
  • Sign anything.  Do not sign any paperwork without an attorney present. 

 What you should do: 

Make a plan with your family just in case you are detained by the police (ex: Who will watch your children? Are your finances in order?) Make sure your family members know your A-number so they can find out information about you if you are detained. 

Memorize the phone number of a family member or immigration attorney to call in case you are arrested, and exercise your right to make one phone call when you are at the police station.  

Keep a copy of all of your immigration documents and paperwork in a safe place.  Give a copy of all these documents to your attorney to have on file.

If you have a valid immigration status, carry your documentation with you at all times (green card, EAD card, passport with visa, etc).

Take notes.  Write down the name or badge number of any officers you interact with.  If you are in your home or in a public place, take pictures or video.  Use "Facebook Live" to record your interaction with the police.  (However, do not take pictures or video inside a government building without permission.)

If yo pare in immigration detention, ask to speak to your home country's embassy or consulate here in the United States.  They may be able to help you find an attorney or contact your family. 

Request bond.  Even if immigration says you are not eligible, you may be able to be released on bond if you can prove that you are not a flight risk or a danger to the community. 

Inform the officers of nay medical conditions or medications you are taking.  You are entitled to medical care while being detained.  You are also entitled to food, water, and trips to the restroom at reasonable intervals. 

•••

Keep in mind that in any interaction with the police or immigration officers, you should remain careful ad respectful at all times.  However, do not be afraid to exercise your rights. 

Even if you are undocumented, you still have the rights listed in this blog post. 

Any information you give to the police may be used against you in criminal or immigration proceedings. 

If you have any questions, please contact us