Know Your Rights

Overview

Everyone in the U.S. has certain rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, regardless of your immigration status. You can’t always control whether you will come in contact with immigration or law enforcement. It is important to know and practice these scenarios so that you and your friends, family, and colleagues are prepared for any situation. Understanding what your fundamental rights are and how to use them will help you advocate for yourself and respond appropriately if you encounter the police or immigration enforcement.

Red Cards

Are you worried about remembering your rights or saying the wrong thing when approached by immigration enforcement officers? Red cards are like helpful business cards that you can hand to an officer if he/she approaches you in public or slide under your front door if he/she knocks and begins to ask questions. Red cards are printed with your rights under the Constitution, and a statement that you are exercising your right to remain silent.

Are you worried about remembering your rights or saying the wrong thing when approached by immigration enforcement officers? Red cards are like helpful business cards that you can hand to an officer if he/she approaches you in public or slide under your front door if he/she knocks and begins to ask questions. Red cards are printed with your rights under the Constitution, and a statement that you are exercising your right to remain silent.

Red Card steps:

  • Print out red card.
  • Place red card in your wallet or purse.
  • If approached by an officer in public and questioned, ask if you can remove the card from your wallet and show it to the officer.
  • If an officer approaches your home, slide the card to the officer under the front door or hold it up against a window for them to read.

Your Rights Inside of Your Home

In any interaction with law or immigration enforcement, the most important practices to remember are:

  • Stay calm
  • Stay silent (don’t mention where you were born or how you entered the US)
  • Record details and names
  • Do NOT run away
  • Ask to speak to your lawyer before signing any documents or answering any questions
  • If you do speak, do not lie.

Your home carries with it special protections that public spaces do not. Understanding what those are (and aren’t) can help you navigate stressful encounters with immigration enforcement on your doorstep, and potentially avoid harm.

If ICE knocks on the front door of your home or apartment and asks to enter, do not open the door. ICE is only allowed to enter if they have a valid judicial search or arrest warrant with your correct name and/or address, signed by a judge.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to your front window so you can examine it. ICE will usually have a warrant of deportation or removal, which is signed by an immigration official, not a judge, and does NOT give them permission to enter the home even if you or another occupant’s name is on it, unless you give them permission. If this is the only warrant they provide, you should NOT open the door.

Although opening the door does not mean that you are giving them permission to enter our home, officers may say later that you did.  

If the officer refuses to show you their warrant, tell them that because they have not demonstrated that they have a valid warrant, you are exercising your constitutional right and will not open the door to them.

 In order for a search warrant to be valid, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be signed by a judge – NOT an immigration official
  • Must contain the address of the home to be searched
  • Must describe the area to be searched

You have the same rights in an apartment as you do in a house. ICE cannot force a landlord to open your front door if you refuse because they do not have a valid warrant.

 

  • Stay calm and call an attorney right away.
  • Don’t say anything to them except “I have the right to remain silent.”
  • Do not sign any papers. You do not have to sign anything without your lawyer there.
  • Record the incident on a phone or camera, and take notes of the officer’s badge number, agency, and full name, as well as the details of everything that happens.
  • If you are asked to stop recording, it is advisable that you comply to limit escalating the situation. Instead, you can take mental notes and write them down immediately after the encounter.
  • If you are detained and have U.S. citizen children who are minors, consider telling the officers this detail, as it could impact whether or not they choose to detain you. However, if your children are undocumented, you may not want to mention them in case ICE decides to detain them as well.

Are you worried about remembering your rights or saying the wrong thing when approached by immigration enforcement officers? Red cards are like helpful business cards that you can hand to an officer if he/she approaches you in public, or slide under your front door or if an officer knocks on your front door and begins to ask questions. Red cards are printed with your rights under the Constitution, and a statement that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Read more about them here or go ahead and print one out.

Your Rights Outside of Your Home

In any interaction with law or immigration enforcement, the most important practices to remember are:

  • Stay calm
  • Stay silent (don’t mention where you were born or how you entered the US)
  • Record details and names
  • Do NOT run away
  • Ask to speak to your lawyer before signing any documents or answering any questions

Encountering immigration officers outside of your home can come with additional pressures and constraints. Make sure that you are familiar with your rights, and practice responding to requests so that if you are ever in a position where you are being questioned, you can remain calm and respond appropriately.

ICE is only allowed to arrest you in a public place, like a park or the street, if they have a warrant with your name on it. Otherwise, to detain you, they need evidence that you are a non-citizen. Remember to stay calm and not to run.

If you are stopped, ask the officer: “Am I being arrested or detained?” If the officer says no, then ask “Am I free to leave?” If they say yes, calmly walk away. If they arrest you, ask to call your lawyer. Remember: you have the right to remain silent and refuse a search. You do not have to sign any documents without your lawyer present.

If immigration enforcement attempts to enter your workplace to conduct a raid or detain individuals, remember the basic rights above. Make sure you make a plan with your coworkers that you trust ahead of time where everyone agrees to stay calm, not to run, and to stay silent.

Keep in mind that employers don’t have to let anybody enter their building without a search or arrest warrant. This may be a good topic to address ahead of time with your employer so that they understand their own rights and can better protect their employees.

If you are stopped while driving, show the police your driver’s license (if you do not have a valid license, you should NOT be driving). If they ask, show your car registration and proof of insurance. Other than that, you don’t have to say anything else. If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can tell them that you refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

It is illegal for law enforcement officers to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

However, law enforcement officers at the airport and at the border generally have the authority to search all bags and to ask you questions about your citizenship and travel itinerary, though if you are simply flying domestically (between U.S. cities or states) it is unusual for officers to ask questions about citizenship status. If you are taken into custody at the airport, you should request to speak with an attorney, not sign any papers, and remain silent.

It is important that you only attempt to fly if you have a valid (unexpired) state or federal ID. Some forms of ID that are accepted by TSA are: state-issued driver’s license, state ID, passport from your country of origin, or a DACA EAD card.

Are you worried about remembering your rights or saying the wrong thing when approached by immigration enforcement officers? Red cards are like helpful business cards that you can hand to an officer if he/she approaches you in public or slide under your front door if he/she knocks and begins to ask questions. Red cards are printed with your rights under the Constitution, and a statement that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Read more about them here or go ahead and print one out.

How to Prepare for an Immigration Raid

It is important to be prepared and to know your rights and your family’s rights in case of a raid or other encounter with ICE or local law enforcement.

Everybody has rights under the U.S. constitution that you may exercise in such a situation. There are also a number of steps you can take ahead of any encounter to minimize panic, family separation, and loss of financial assets. The below guides provide helpful information on preparing as well as responding to a raid in your home, workplace, or in a public space.

Find more information and resources on how to prepare yourself for an immigration raid here.

  1. Stay calm and do not run away
  2. Remain silent, or tell the ICE agent that you want to remain silent. If you do speak, do not lie.
  3. Ask to speak with a lawyer
  4. Do NOT sign any documents or answer questions without your lawyer present
  5. Record details and names of officers

Find more information and resources on how to prepare yourself for an immigration raid here.

What To Do If You Are or Someone You Know Is Arrested

If you are undocumented or have questions about your immigration status, you should immediately seek out an immigration attorney or a DOJ-accredited representative to represent and advise you. Immigration law is complicated, and an attorney can help you understand if you qualify for existing legal pathways, or if you should set up legal guardians for your children in case anything happens. It is estimated that 1.2 million undocumented people may be eligible for some form of immigration relief, so seek counsel.

Find more resources and materials on finding a trusted lawyer here. 

If you suspect that your own or a loved one’s civil rights have been violated by ICE/immigration enforcement, share your suspicions and any documentation you may have of the violation (photos, officer badge number, video, notes) with your attorney, as it could strengthen a case in your favor.

You should also report the violation to the federal government by filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (more information and forms available here).

Just because you have been detained, does not mean you no longer have any rights. In fact, individuals in custody have the following basic rights:

  • Right to speak to your attorney
  • Right to a phone call
  • Right to call and/or speak with your consulate
  • Right to remain silent
  • Right to refuse to sign any papers without speaking to your attorney
  • Right to a copy of all documents relating to your immigration case, including your Notice to Appear
  • Right to request bond
  • Do not discuss your immigration status or criminal history with anyone who is not your lawyer

If you are detained, stay calm and request to make a phone call to your lawyer or close family member.

Many non-citizens in immigration detention are eligible for bond, unless they are subject to mandatory detention and thus “ineligible for bond.” If you are in immigration detention awaiting removal proceedings, you may request a bond hearing from the immigration judge either orally during your removal proceeding or in writing through a written motion. You can make an oral request for a bond hearing at your first scheduled court appearance, often referred to as your  Master Calendar Hearing. If, however, you are in detention for longer than a few days without receiving a notice of a hearing, you can make a written request for a bond hearing.

Here are a few quick facts about bond:

  • Bond is an amount of money that you, a relative or a friend may pay to the court in order to be released from detention, and which is refunded if you attend all scheduled court hearings and comply with the judge’s ultimate order. If you miss a court hearing, you forfeit the money.
  • Making bond can enable the release of a detained individual back to their family while they await a court date.
  • It is important to ask ICE if they have posted bond for a detained individual. If they have, try to pay it. If they have not, ask if that is because the individual is “ineligible for bond” or simply because the amount hasn’t been determined. If someone is ineligible, it is unlikely a judge will grant bond. However, if the amount just hasn’t been set yet, press them to determine the amount as soon as possible, so that you can pay the amount and arrange for the individual’s release. Sometimes it helps to explain why it is important that somebody be released from detention. For example, is somebody has a child, it is important that they be given the opportunity to return home to care for that child.
  • Every detainee is entitled to a “bond hearing,” a hearing with an immigration judge to determine the bond amount. If the initial bond amount provided by ICE seems too high, or if ICE claims you are ineligible for bond but you believe that is incorrect, you or your attorney can request a bond hearing to appeal and request a lower amount. However, the judge can also raise the amount of bond during the hearing if new, unflattering information comes to light, so be cautious.
  • If you are subject to mandatory detention, you are “ineligible for bond.” Often, this is because the detained individual has a criminal record. If you do not have a criminal record, you have a better chance of being granted a bond.
  • To pay bond on behalf of a detained individual, the individual making the payment must have legal status in the U.S. and provide a photo ID.
  • Payment should be made to the local ICE office via a cashier’s check made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. They will not accept cash or a personal check. The person paying the bond should bring their own Social Security card and photo ID, as well as the name, date of birth, and A# of the detained person.

Find a lawyer to review the details of your or a loved one’s  case to determine if a bond is attainable. You can find a lawyer here.

Sources: Immigration Detention 101: Information for Detainee’s Family and Friends; Can I pay a bond to get a relative out of immigration detention?

Rights of Lawful Permanent Residents

Lawful permanent residents have a number of rights under the Constitution and existing immigration law. Only an immigration judge can take away your permanent residence. Never sign anything giving up your status without consulting a lawyer.

Lawful permanent residents have

  • Permission to work legally in the United States
  • Are eligible for certain public benefits
  • The right to travel within the United States and abroad

If you are convicted of a crime, your lawful permanent residence status can be taken away, but only an immigration judge can make this decision.

Suggested Resources

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Finding A Trusted Lawyer

If you are undocumented or have questions about your immigration status, you should immediately seek out an immigration attorney or a DOJ-accredited representative to represent and advise you. Immigration law is complicated, and an attorney can help you understand if you qualify for existing legal pathways, or if you should set up legal guardians for your children in case anything happens. It is estimated that 1.2 million undocumented people may be eligible for some form of immigration relief, so seek counsel.

Enter your zip code to find organizations that work with immigrants and provide legal services near you. Find our service organizations lookup tool here.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) maintains a list of licensed immigration attorneys in every state in the U.S. Click here to be taken to their list of lawyers and search for one in your zip code.

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild also keeps a list of licensed immigration lawyers filtered by state. Click here to be taken to this list.

Finally, the American Bar Association maintains a site with pro-bono lawyers and free answers to common legal questions. Click here to be taken to this list.

In many Latin American and European countries, a “notario publico” (which translates into “notary public”) has the equivalent of a law license and is qualified to advise and represent clients before the government. However, in the U.S. a “notary public” is only qualified to witness the signature of forms. Notary publics, or notarios, are NOT attorneys, and are not qualified to represent anybody in court, despite what they may mislead their clients into believing.

Be careful when seeking legal help: just because somebody says they can help you, does not mean that they are qualified to provide legal advice or to correctly complete important immigration forms. In some cases, people relying on a notario have received bad legal advice or had their paperwork filed improperly, resulting in long processing delays, additional fees, or deportation. Notarios are not lawyers, and only a licensed attorney or an individual accredited by the Department of Justice to practice law in front of USCIS and immigration courts may provide you with legal advice.

Here are some important things to look out for when seeking immigration legal assistance:

    • Check credentials: The individual seeking to provide you with legal advice must be a licensed attorney or accredited by the Department of Justice to provide immigration legal assistance. Before choosing somebody to assist you with your immigration case, verify their credentials by checking the state Bar Association’s list of lawyers in good standing or the DOJ’s List of Accredited Representatives and Recognized Organizations. You may also ask the individual to show you their credentials; they should have no problem doing so.
    • Payments: USCIS does not accept payments through Western Union, Paypal, over the phone or through email, and will never ask you to transfer money to an individual. If this request is made of you, it is likely a scam and you should seek out additional assistance from a nearby non-profit or licensed attorney immediately.
    • USCIS Forms: Never pay a website or individual to download or access a USCIS form. USCIS forms are always free and available for download on the USCIS website. You can also pick up free forms at the local USCIS office or order them over the phone at 800-870-3676.
  • Too good to be true? If a notario claims to have connections in government or immigration processing centers that will speed up your application approval, it is likely a scam. Similarly, if you have been advised by licensed attorneys previously that you are not eligible for existing forms of immigration relief, and then a notario claims that they know of another, secret way, do not believe them.
  • Case contract and updates: You are entitled to a written contract with your lawyer that lays out the work being done and all associated fees and expenses. If any of the terms of the agreement change, make sure to have those changes in writing, and make sure to request a receipt of any payments you make.
  • Applications: Do not sign applications that contain false information, or that are blank. Always get proof that your papers have been filed by asking for a copy of the government filing receipt.

If you have been harmed by a notorio, you can report them here to prevent them from taking advantage of others.

Source: USCIS Avoid Scams; Stop Notario Fraud

How to Prepare Your Family

If you are undocumented or have questions about your immigration status, you should immediately seek out an immigration attorney or a DOJ-accredited representative to represent and advise you. Immigration law is complicated, and an attorney can help you understand if you qualify for existing legal pathways, or if you should set up legal guardians for your children in case anything happens. It is estimated that 1.2 million undocumented people may be eligible for some form of immigration relief, so seek counsel.

Find more resources and materials on finding a trusted lawyer here. 

Every family regardless of immigration status should make a family preparedness plan in case of emergency. Family preparedness plans are a collection of documents and important information about family member’s medical history, childcare preferences, social security numbers, financial matters, and more. A preparedness plan also outlines immediate and longer-term actions to be taken if a member of the family is detained or otherwise at risk. Compiling this plan ahead of time will reduce stress and result in better outcomes for your family.

Find more resources and materials on how to prepare your family here.