Many immigrants, regardless of their official status, are unfamiliar with all the protections afforded them under the United States Constitution. It is important that if you are an immigrant, you understand what your rights are so that if you are ever questioned by police or United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) you know what you should, and should not, disclose.
Your Right to Remain Silent
Perhaps the most well known right is the right to remain silent. It is established by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which states, “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” It is important that if you wish to exercise this right that you state your intention out loud. Remember, you are not required to answer questions regarding where you were born or how you came to the United States. Also, the right to remain silent may not apply in certain situations, such as when you are at a border, in an airport, or if you hold certain nonimmigrant visas.
Your Rights Regarding Your Immigration Papers
When you are an immigrant, if a member of police or an ICE officer requests to see your immigration papers, you are required to comply. Because of this, it is a good idea to keep your immigration documentation on you at all times. Do not lie to the officers or provide fake documentation. If you do not have any documentation, it is best to invoke your right to remain silent.
Your Right Against an Unreasonable Search or Seizure
Whether or not law enforcement has a right to search your person, home, or motor vehicle, depends upon different factors. However, if law enforcement asks if they may search you, your home, or your car you have the right to say no. This does not stop law enforcement from patting you down if they feel you are in possession of a weapon. They are also able to search your motor vehicle if they have reason to believe your car contains evidence of a crime.
Your Right to an Attorney
The right to an attorney is found in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, which states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall…have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” If an immigrant is arrested by police, this amendment affords them the right to an attorney appointed by the government if they are unable to afford one on their own. However, if they are being detained by ICE, they may still request counsel but there is no right to have one appointed if they are unable to afford one. Also, the right to counsel only applies in criminal cases, not civil cases.
Counsel, You Can Count On
If you are an immigrant in Massachusetts, and you need legal assistance, contact Maceolaw, P.C. Attorney Ambar Maceo is a criminal defense attorney that understands the rights afforded to both immigrants and citizens of the United States, and she is able to provide you with the legal guidance that you need. You may contact her firm by calling 617-208-0505 or via their contact page.