Being stopped or questioned by a law enforcement officer can be confusing and stressful for any person. Though, it is especially so for immigrants and their family members. As such, it is critically important that all immigrants know their legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with state and local police officers as well as immigration officers.
If you have been arrested or detained, and your immigration status is in question, you need to contact an experienced Los Angeles immigration lawyer immediately.
Do You Know Your Rights?
When dealing with law enforcement officials, citizens, green card holders and undocumented immigrants should be aware of the following three critically important legal protections:
- Right to remain silent: The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants all people the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer a police officer’s invasive questions. To exercise this right, be sure to state clearly and calmly that you do not wish to speak.
- Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure: Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers may not search your home or vehicle without either 1) probable cause or 2) your permission. It is not in your interest to consent to a search. Though, if you decline to let a police officer conduct a search, they may still conduct a search, sometimes illegally, anyway. If so, you should not try to stop them. Determining whether or not the search was actually legal is an issue that should be handled by your attorney.
- Right to legal representation: Finally, if have been arrested, you have the right to hire an attorney. This is your most valuable right because your attorney will be able to ensure that all of your other rights are protected. The legal system is complicated, so please do not wait to get an attorney involved in your case.
To be clear, regardless of your immigration status, you still have constitutional rights. You should not hesitate to exercise those rights.
What to Do If You Are Questioned About Your Immigration Status?
Immigration is an issue that is governed by federal law. As such, many state and local police officers will not ask you about your immigration status. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, such as in the city of Los Angeles, police departments have committed to not stepping outside of the bounds of their normal duties to try to enforcement immigration policies. In other words, these departments will not inquire about your immigration status. However, if you are a non-citizen, and a federal immigration agent asks to see your immigration documents, you are supposed to comply. Still, you have the right to remain silent. This is true even when it comes to questions regarding immigration status. You have no obligation to answer questions about:
- Your national origin;
- Your race;
- Where you were born;
- When you entered the United States;
- How you entered the United States; or
- The immigration status of any of your loved ones.
You should never provide fake documents or lie about your status. If there is any issue, it is best to keep your silence and request immediate access to an immigration attorney who can help protect your rights.
Do You Need Immigration Solutions?
We can help. Please do not hesitate to contact our team today at (213) 514-8870 for immediate assistance. At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, we serve immigrants and their families throughout Southern California, including in Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Monica and Monterey Park. Reach out to us today for immigration help if you are in town or are moving to L.A.