What to do if Stopped by Immigration: Understanding your Rights

B&W 150h

Author: Alexander D. Sanchez, Esq.
Date: September 16, 2016


Being stopped by police, immigrations agents and other authorities can be a harrowing experience. Having a plan and knowing how to respond if this occurs can make a world of difference. Do not get caught flat footed. Understand your rights and exercise them!

You Have the Right to…

You have the right to remain silent. Don’t be afraid to say this out loud: “I wish to remain silent.”

You have the right to refuse consent. If the police wish to search your person, car or home, you have the right to refuse consent. Don’t be afraid to say this out loud: “I do not consent to you searching me/my car/my home.”

If you are not under arrest you have the right to peacefully walk away. Don’t be afraid to ask: “Am I under arrest?” If you are told you are not, then don’t be afraid to say: “If I am not under arrest, then I wish to leave.” Then calmly walk away.

You have the right to an attorney.

Regardless of your immigration status you have constitutional rights. Use them!

You Have Responsibilities too…

Be polite and stay calm. Being rude our loud will never help the situation.

Don’t interfere or obstruct any police activity.

Don’t lie or provide any false documents.

Remember the details of the police encounter. Write down all the details you can remember as soon as you can after the encounter.

Questions About your Immigration Status…

Remember you have the right to remain silent. You are not required to talk to police or immigration authorities about where you were born, your citizenship status or how you entered the country. What you say can be used against you and jeopardize future immigration relief.

If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent asks for your immigration papers, you are required to produce them if you have them. If you are over 18 you are required to carry your immigration papers at all times. If you do not have your immigration papers, don’t be afraid to say: “I wish to remain silent.”

Do not lie about your citizenship status or produce fake documents. Doing so can result in serious criminal issues and also hurt your chances for immigration relief down the road.

Taken into Immigration (“ICE”) Custody

You have the right to an attorney. Say nothing until you have contact an attorney.

You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer notify the consulate of your arrest.

Refuse to sign any documents like voluntary departure forms or stipulate removal forms until you have had a chance to consult with an attorney. If you do not understand a form do not sign it until you do. (An immigration lawyer can help you understand these forms).

Request your immigration number (“A” number). And remember it.