Undocumented Immigrants and Protests: A Guide to the Risks and Your Rights

Following the horrific killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, millions of people across the country have hit the streets to demand justice and equality. On June 14th, 30,000 people marched in support of Black Lives Matter in Hollywood and West Hollywood—in just one of many protests that have taken place in Southern California and throughout the United States. 

Sadly, some authorities respond to demonstrations in a highly aggressive manner. As reported by Time Magazine, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) even detained a man—an American citizen and military veteran as it turns out—at a protest in New York City. We want to make sure you can protect your rights. 

Undocumented Immigrants Face Additional Risks

Everyone has the right to protest. There is no specific rule, regulation, or law that prohibits immigrants—documented or undocumented—from making their voice heard or participating in a demonstration. That being said, protesting does come with some unique challenges for undocumented immigrants. As a general matter, undocumented immigrants also face risk from interacting with the police. 

The good news is that California provides sanctuary protections to undocumented immigrants. Under the law, state and local agencies are prevented from transferring (most) people to the custody of immigration officers. Still, protesting carries risks and there have been reports of law enforcement agencies in California violating the state’s sanctuary policies.

Bringing attention to a social cause is critically important. The right to protest must be protected and no one should be stopped from fighting for positive change. At the same time, immigrants (especially undocumented immigrants) must carefully consider their uniquely vulnerable position. Before participating in a public demonstration, take time to understand the specific risks. As an example, if federal agencies are involved in crowd control, going to that demonstration almost certainly carries higher risks.    

Steps to Take If You are Detained as an Undocumented Immigrant at a Protest

Undocumented immigrants who have been detained at a protest need to know how to protect their rights and interests. Among other things, undocumented immigrants should be prepared to take the following three steps: 

  • Know the Agency You are Dealing With: In most cases, protests are being observed/controlled by state and local law enforcement agencies. If you are being detained by a California-based agency, you may not be asked about your immigration status at all. Do not volunteer unrequested information. You may be released without immigration being a factor. 
  • Do Not Sign Anything or Answer Questions: If you end up in the custody of federal immigration officers, you have a right to remain silent. Do not sign any documents—including stipulated orders of removal—without first consulting with an immigration attorney. 
  • Focus On Letting Family/Friends Know Where You Are: As you are being processed, try to get as much information as possible. While keeping your silence on specific questions, your focus should be on letting your loved ones know that you are in immigration custody—this is a key step in getting the immigration help that you need.

We Support Immigrant Rights in California

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our Los Angeles immigration lawyer provides high quality, personalized legal advocacy to clients. We will stand up for you and protect your rights. To arrange a confidential appointment with a top-rated immigration lawyer, please give us a call today. We represent clients in Los Angeles and throughout the State of California.