Know Your Rights
Everybody in the United States has certain constitutional rights, including undocumented immigrants. Here's a list of those rights because if you know them, you’ll be able to take steps to protect yourself. If a law enforcement officer, including a member of ICE, contacts you, remember to assert your rights!
1. Don’t talk to them. You have the right to remain silent. You can refuse to speak to law enforcement officers or members of ICE. You can either remain silent or say that you want to remain silent.
*Be careful, make sure not to answer questions about where you were born or how you entered the US.
2. Don’t open the door. You don’t have to let members of law enforcement or ICE into your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they’re at your door, ask to see the warrant. They can slip it under the door or hold it up to the window. If they don’t have one, if it’s not signed by a judge, or if your name or address are wrong, then you don’t have to let them in.
*Be careful, because once they’ve entered your home it’ll be harder to refuse to answer their questions, and other people in your home may be subject to identification and questioning. Also, if the officers see anything illegal in your home, they have the right to take it and use it against you as evidence in a criminal case, which could affect your immigration case.
3. Ask to speak to a lawyer. You have the right to talk to a lawyer. All you have to say is “I want to talk to my lawyer.” You should do this before answering any questions or signing anything. However, you don’t have the right to a free lawyer. If you can’t afford one you can ask for a list of pro bono lawyers. If you have legal status in the United States, you should always keep proof of that with you (ex. Green Card, Employment Authorization). Be aware of expiration dates. USCIS is incredibly backed up right now so apply early if your status or authorization is expiring within a year.
Create a plan for if you get detained. If you don’t have legal status you might get picked up by ICE. That’s a fact. In case that happens, you should make contact with an immigration lawyer now. Designate a family-member or close friend to be your contact person, and make sure they know to call that lawyer if you get detained. If you have young children or other people who are dependent on you, setup a backup plan for their care.
Also, start gathering identification documentation to fight an immigration case. That includes your birth certificate, passport from your country of origin, your marriage certificate, and the birth certificates of your immediate family members. Avoid carrying any of your identification from other countries with you though, that could tip off a law enforcement officer that you may be undocumented. If you have close relatives who have status in the US, consider meeting with an immigration lawyer to start a family petition (I-130) process. An approved I-130 might help you win your case.