What to do if you are stopped by police or immigration
It is a difficult and probably more than a little frightening time for immigrants in the United States. This is doubly true for any visitors who are undocumented. Fortunately, everyone in the United States has constitutional rights to protect them regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.
Being approached by an American police officer can be very intimidating. Even when you have done nothing wrong, the experience can still leave you shaken. Below are a few of the basic rights you have while in the country – do not be afraid to use them.
Everyone in the United States has rights
According to the American constitution you have the right to remain silent when police speak to you. This is valuable because it can keep you from accidentally incriminating yourself or saying something that may be construed as incriminating yourself. If you choose to remain silent, tell the officer out loud.
You may also refuse to personally being searched, having your car searched or having your home searched. The police may not dig through your belongings just because they want to. They will need the proper warrants to do this.
This next right can become muddled, but generally speaking, if you are not under arrest, then the police cannot hold you. This means that a police officer cannot force you to stay in one place unless you have been placed under arrest. If you wish to leave, ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, ask what you are being charged with. If you are allowed to leave, do so calmly.
If you are placed under arrest, you have the right to be provided with an attorney at no cost to you. In the vast majority of cases it is much better to immediately request an attorney out loud and then remain silent. Your attorney will advocate for you to the best of their abilities.
If you are questioned about your immigration status
Now that we understand your basic constitutional rights while in the United States, let’s take a broad look at how to handle being questioned about immigration.
As with other lines of questioning, you have the right to remain silent when police, immigration officers or other officials ask you about your immigration or citizenship status. This means not having to say where you were born, if you are a citizen, how and when you entered the US and so on.
You must provide your immigration papers upon request if you are a non-citizen and over 18 years old. It is critical to always carry your immigration documents with you. If you are questioned and do not have them for any reason, say that you choose to remain silent.
Immigrating to the United States represents a new life for many people. It is, unfortunately, difficult to get that life started sometimes. To get the ball rolling on your immigration, or if you feel you have been mistreated based by law enforcement, speak to an immigration attorney. These legal professionals are on your side and will do everything in their power to help you achieve the life you want to live.