Immigration Raids: Know Your Rights!

Undocumented workers face plenty of challenges in their daily lives. The fear of losing your livelihood to a hard-to-follow process guides every day actions. One of the greatest fears that undocumented workers have is being caught by immigration authorities. But it is important to know that, even if you are not a citizen of the United States, you have rights. You are protected. Being well informed will help if you have been arrested or detained by the U.S. government during an immigration raid. Here is what you need to know to protect your immigration status if this happens to you or someone you know.

Be prepared!

First and foremost, you should be prepared in case of an immigration raid. If you have valid immigration status documents, always carry them with you and show them to the immigration official or police officer if necessary. If you are undocumented, you should print out the Know Your Rights Card (see below) and always carry it with you. You should have the name and phone number of a reliable immigration attorney and keep it with you at all times to be prepared. If you have an “alien registration number” (a unique 7, 8 or 9 digit number assigned to a noncitizen at the time he or she files that begins with an “A,” followed by a unique set of numbers), you should keep that on you at all times as well. Keep a copy of all this information at home so that your family members know where to find it.

What to do..

if you are questioned by police?

If a police officer or immigration official questions you about your status, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to show them any identity documents or even tell them your name. (NOTE: In some states you might have to tell your name to a police officer who stops you, but this is not the law in California.) You have the right to ask the officer if you are being arrested or detained. If the officer says “NO, you are not being arrested or detained,” you should ask him or her if you can leave. If the officer says you can leave, you should do so – slowly and calmly. But what if the officer says “YES, you are being arrested or detained?”

..If you are arrested or detained?

Even if you are arrested or detained, you do not have to answer any questions asked by an immigration official or police officer. If this happens to you, you should ask to speak to your lawyer and show the officer your Know Your Rights Card. An immigration officer cannot force you to answer any questions. Even if you are arrested and taken into custody, you have a right to be silent and to ask for a lawyer. Do not tell the officer where you were born, your nationality, or what your immigration status is. Do not sign any papers. Do not show the agent any papers or identification documents from your country of origin. Most importantly, do NOT lie or show any false documents! This will only get you into more trouble. If you have valid immigration documents, you may show them to the officer but you do not have to if you do not feel comfortable doing so. Remember, you do not have to answer any questions, and you can always ask your lawyer for help.

…if police or immigration officials come to your home?

If this happens, do not immediately open the door. Opening the door can be considered giving the officer “consent” to enter. Ask the officer if they have a warrant. A warrant is a paper signed by a judge giving the officer permission to enter your home. The warrant will specify what areas of your home they are allowed to search. If the officer has a warrant, ask them to slip it under the door. Only then should you let them in. Make sure you observe whether the official searches any areas that were not listed in the warrant. If they take any property, make sure you get a receipt. Keep track of what the officer did. Being aware of what they are doing will help you stay prepared.

…if police or immigration officials stop you on the street?

If the police or an immigration official stops you on the street and does not have a warrant, they cannot arrest you without evidence that you are a non-citizen. Remember that you have the right to remain silent and to refuse a search. Do not say anything about your immigration status or where you were born. If you have valid immigration documents, show them. Above all, do not lie and do not show any false documents. Ask the officer, “Am I free to leave?” If the officer says yes, walk away (don’t run). If the officer says no, continue to answer each question by stating that you want to talk to a lawyer.

…if police or immigration officials come to your workplace?

Immigration must have a warrant signed by a judge, or your employer’s permission, to enter your workplace. If you work in a public place, immigration does not need a warrant. If police or immigration officials come to your workplace, stay calm and do not run. If you are questioned or detained, follow the instructions above.