When Are My Rights If I Am Not a U.S. Citizen?

The American Civil Liberties Union provided the following information about this topic:

Non-citizens are persons who do not have U.S. citizenship, including lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylum seekers, persons who have permission to come to the U.S. for reasons like work, school or travel, and those without legal immigration status of any kind. Non-citizens who are in the United States—no matter what their immigration status—generally have the same constitutional rights as citizens when police officers stop, question, arrest, or search them or their homes. However, there are some special concerns that apply to non-citizens, so the following rights and responsibilities are important for non-citizens to know.

Question: What can I do if law enforcement officers want to question me?
Answer: You have the same right to be silent that U.S. citizens have, so the general rule is that you do not have to answer any questions that a police officer asks you. However, there are exceptions to this at such places as airports and borders.

Question: Do I have to answer questions about whether I am a U.S. citizen, where I was born, where I live, where I am from, or other questions about my immigration status?
Answer: You do not have to answer any of those questions if you do not want to. But do not falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen. It is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer before you answer questions about your immigration status. Immigration law is very complicated, so you could end up saying something that you shouldn’t say. A lawyer can help protect your rights, advise you, and help you avoid a problem. Always remember that even if you have answered some questions, you can still decide to stop answering questions. For “nonimmigrants” (that is, a non-citizen who is authorized to be in the U.S. for a particular reason or activity, usually for a limited period of time, such as a person with a tourist, student, or work visa), there is one limited exception to the rule that non-citizens who are already in the U.S. do not have to answer law enforcement officers’ questions: immigration officers can require nonimmigrants to provide information related to their immigration status. However, even if you are a nonimmigrant, you can still say that you would like to have your lawyer with you before you answer questions, and you have the right to stay silent if your answer to a question could be used against you in a criminal case.

Question: Do I have to show officers my immigration documents?

Answer: The law requires non-citizens who are 18 or older and who have been issued valid U.S. immigration documents to carry those documents with them at all times. These immigration documents are often called “alien registration” documents. The type you need to carry depends on your immigration status. Some examples include an unexpired permanent resident card (“green card”), I-94, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or border crossing card. Failing to carry these documents is a crime. If you have your valid U.S. immigration documents and you are asked for them, it is usually a good idea to show them to the officer because it is possible that you will be arrested if you do not do so. Keep a copy of your documents in a safe place and apply for a replacement immediately if you lose your documents or if they are going to expire. If you are arrested because you do not have your U.S. immigration documents with you, but you have them elsewhere, ask a friend or family member to bring them to you. It is never a good idea to show an immigration officer fake documents or to pretend that someone else’s immigration documents are yours. If you are undocumented and therefore do not have valid U.S. immigration documents, you can decide not to answer questions about your citizenship or immigration status or even whether you actually have any documents. If you tell an immigration officer that you are not a U.S. citizen and you then cannot produce valid U.S. immigration documents, there is a very good chance you will be arrested.

Question: What should I do if there is an immigration raid where I work?
Answer: If your workplace is raided, it may not be clear to you whether you are free to leave. Regardless, you have the right to remain silent—you do not have to answer questions about your citizenship, immigration status, or anything else. If you do answer questions and you say that you are not a U.S. citizen, you will be expected to produce immigration documents showing your immigration status. If you try to run away, the immigration officers will assume that you are in the U.S. illegally and you will likely be arrested. The safer course is to continue with your work or calmly ask if you may leave, and to not answer any questions that you do not want to answer.

Question: What can I do if immigration officers are arresting me and I have children in my care or my children need to be picked up and taken care of?
Answer: If you have children with you when you are arrested, ask the officers if you can call a family member or friend to come take care of them before the officers take you away. If you are arrested when your children are at school or elsewhere, call a friend or family member as soon as possible so that a responsible adult will be able to take care of them.

Question: What should I do if immigration officers arrest me?
Answer: Assert your rights. Non-citizens have rights that are important for their immigration cases. You do not have to answer questions. You can tell the officer you want to speak with a lawyer. You do not have to sign anything giving up your rights, and should never sign anything without reading, understanding, and knowing the consequences of signing it. If you do sign an immigration waiver, agents could try to deport you before you see a lawyer or a judge. The immigration laws are hard to understand. There may be options for you that the immigration officers will not explain to you. You should talk to a lawyer before signing anything or making a decision about your situation. If possible, carry with you the name and telephone number of a lawyer who will take your calls.

Question: Do I have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any police officers’ questions or signing any immigration papers?
Answer: Yes. You have the right to call a lawyer or your family if you are detained, and you have the right to be visited by a lawyer in detention. You have the right to have your attorney with you at any hearing before an immigration judge. You do not have the right to a government-appointed attorney for immigration proceedings, but immigration officials must give you a list of free or low-cost legal service providers. You always have the right to hire your own immigration attorney.

Question: If I am arrested for immigration violations, do I have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge to defend myself against deportation charges?
Answer: Yes. In most cases only an immigration judge can order you deported. But if you waive your rights by signing something called a “Stipulated Removal Order,” or take “voluntary departure,” whereby you agree to leave the U.S., you could be deported without a hearing. There are some reasons why a person might not have a right to see an immigration judge, but even if you are told that this is your situation, you should still speak with a lawyer immediately. Immigration officers do not always know or tell you about exceptions that may apply to you, so you could have a right that you do not know about. Also, it is very important that you immediately tell the immigration officer that you fear persecution or torture in your home country if that is, in fact, the case. You may be able to stay in the United States if that is the case.

Question: Can I be detained while my immigration case is happening?
Answer: In many cases, you will be detained, but most people are eligible to be released on bond or other reporting conditions. If you are denied release after you are arrested for an immigration violation, ask for a bond hearing before an immigration judge. An immigration judge may order you to be released or lower your bond.

Question: Can I call my consulate if I am arrested?
Answer: Yes. Non-citizens arrested in the U.S. have the right to call their consulate or to have the law enforcement officer tell the consulate of your arrest. Law enforcement must let your consulate visit or speak with you if consular officials decide to do so. Your consulate might help you find a lawyer or offer you other help.

Question: What happens if I give up my right to an immigration hearing or if I were to leave the U.S. before the hearing is over?
Answer: If you are deported, you could lose your eligibility for certain immigration benefits, and you could be barred from returning to the U.S. for a number of years or, in some cases, permanently. The same is true if you do not go to your hearing and the immigration judge rules against you in your absence. If the government allows you to do “voluntary departure,” you may avoid some of the problems that come with having a deportation order, and you may have a better chance at having a future opportunity to return to the U.S. But you should discuss your case with a lawyer because even with voluntary departure, there can be problems with returning to the U.S., and you may be eligible for relief in immigration court. You should always talk to an immigration lawyer before you decide to give up your right to a hearing.

Question: What should I do if I want to contact immigration officials?
Answer: Always try to talk to a lawyer before contacting immigration officials, even on the phone. Many immigration officials view “enforcement” as their primary job and will not explain all of your options to you, and you could have a problem with your immigration status without knowing it.

Question: What if I am charged with a crime?

Answer: Some criminal convictions can make you deportable. You should always speak with your lawyer about the effect that a conviction or plea could have on your immigration status. Do not agree to a plea bargain without understanding if it could make you deportable, or ineligible for relief or for citizenship.


If you have any more questions about immigration processes or would like more information about your rights if you are not a legal US citizen, call me, Ron Chapman at 561-832-4348 to schedule a free consultation! I can explain the answers to any questions you may have and I will help you in any way I can! You can also connect with my criminal defense attorney website! Y si herbals Español, llames 561-236-1021!

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Desde 1990, el Sr. Chapman ha representado a personas que han sido acusadas de cometer delitos de varios tipos, tales como DUI, violencia doméstica, posesión de armas, posesión de drogas, eliminación de antecedentes penales, infracciones de tránsito, asesinato, homicidio involuntario, abuso infantil, delitos sexuales, abuso de personas mayores, apelaciones y violaciones de libertad condicional.
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