If you’re an immigrant and you’re detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, you may be scared and confused – and waiting to hear that all-important “Miranda Warning” that informs you of your basic rights.
You’ll probably be waiting a long time. A quirk in the law relieves ICE agents of its obligation to remind detainees of their Constitutional rights – and that has led many immigrants (especially those who are undocumented) to incorrectly believe they don’t really have any. If you’re an immigrant, these are some of the most important things that you’ll need to remember.
You need to assert your rights out loud
You do have the right to refuse to answer any questions (other than your identifying information) – and you have the right to have an attorney present if you do submit to questioning. However, you generally need to vocalize your intent to remain silent and ask to speak to your attorney in order to stop any further interrogation attempts. It’s important to note that, because the immigration system is not the same as the criminal system, you are not guaranteed a public defender. Instead, you must obtain your own.
You do not have the right to lie
You do not have to tell ICE agents anything about your country of origin, your immigration status or your history – and silence is better than a lie. Lying to an immigration officer, under any circumstances, can have serious future consequences – including deportation, future inadmissibility if you want to return to the U.S. and the loss of any chance at citizenship.
You have the right to due process
Immigration officers may demand that you turn over your “papers,” such as your passport and other documents – but they cannot force you to do so unless they have an actual warrant giving them permission for the seizure. Similarly, agents may try to get you to sign papers that say you agree to be removed from the country or that you’re departing “voluntarily.” Don’t sign anything – since that can ultimately eliminate your ability to obtain a hearing and make it very difficult or outright impossible to fight your deportation. Whatever their demands, stand firm until you can fully explore your legal options.
If you’re struggling with an immigration issue affecting yourself or a loved one, seeking legal guidance is the best way to protect your future goals, especially if there is any confusion about your rights and options under the law.