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Know Your Rights: Basic Defensive Rights when Confronted by Immigration Authorities

It is vital to remember that, regardless of immigration status, everyone in the United States has certain constitutional rights. Understanding these rights allows us to know what to say or how to act when confronted by immigration authorities in one’s home, at one’s workplace, in public areas, etc. This post will specifically explain two basic defensive rights and how one can utilize them in order to protect themselves from immigration authorities. Additionally, the rights discussed within this post are ones that can be commonly found within the “Know your rights” or “red cards” resources that are often given out (a link to this will be provided below).

The Right to Remain Silent

This right falls under the 5th amendment right to remain silent and to due process of law. Under this right, you do not have to answer any questions asked to you by an immigration agent. It is important to keep in mind that you especially do not have to answer any questions regarding your immigration status, place of birth, where you currently reside, etc. Asserting your right to remain silent is important because you are not required to provide any form of self-incriminating testimony or testimony that could be used against you. Places you can invoke this right are at your home and at work.

Common phrases to use related to this right:

  • “Am I free to go?”

  • “I am asserting my 5th amendment right to remain silent.”

  • “I want to remain silent until I speak with my lawyer.”

  • “I do not want to answer any questions.”

  • “I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, sign or hand you any documents based on my 5th amendment rights under the United States constitution”

The Right to Demand a Warrant before Letting Anyone in

This right falls under the 4th amendment right that prohibits unreasonable searches & seizures and requires a judicially sanctioned search warrant. Under this right, ICE cannot enter one’s home or search their belongings without permission. They need a search warrant signed by a judge or magistrate that gives this officer authorization to enter one’s home, or a specific area. It is important to remember that if they do not have a search warrant, you can say no to letting them in your home or being searched. If they do have a warrant, do not immediately open the door rather ask them to slip any documents they have under the door or a window in order to confirm their warrant. This right is especially important when immigration officials arrive at your home.

Common phrases to use related to this right:

  • “I do not give you permission to enter my home based on my 4th amendment rights under the United States constitution unless you have a warrant to enter, signed by a judge or magistrate with my name on it that you slide under the door.”

  • “Do you have a search warrant?”

  • “Please slip the warrant under the door.”

  • “I do not consent to this search under my 4th amendment right.”

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