Know Your Rights: What to Do If ICE Stops You in Public

Know Your Rights: What to Do If ICE Stops You in Public

If immigration officers stop you while you’re out in public, don’t panic. Whether you’re a citizen or not, everyone in the United States is protected by special rules called constitutional rights. These rights ensure you are treated fairly. This article provides tips to help you feel confident and prepared if ICE officers approach you in public. We want you to know what to expect and what to do if you encounter immigration officers, know when to hire an immigration attorney, and understand your rights if law enforcement stops you at the airport or pulls you over while driving.

Where Can Immigration Agents Stop You?

  • Airports: Immigration officers have broad authority to question anyone entering or exiting the U.S., including citizens and non-citizens.
  • Land borders: Similar to airports, immigration officers can stop and question anyone attempting to cross into the U.S.
  • Within the U.S.: In general, officers cannot stop you based on your immigration status alone. However, they can approach you if they have a reasonable suspicion of involvement in a crime, such as driving under the influence.

If you are approached by ICE agents, knowing your rights is your best defense. Don’t be afraid to assert your rights politely but firmly. Understanding your rights and taking proactive steps can protect you from potentially serious legal issues.

Follow these tips on navigating these tricky situations:

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

You are not required by law to speak to immigration officers or to answer their questions.

Ask If You Are Free to Leave

You don’t have to answer any questions immigration officers ask. It’s okay to politely ask if you’re free to leave. If the officer refuses, tell them you would like to exercise your right to remain silent. Saying it out loud informs the officer that you know your rights and intend to use them.

Show Your Know Your Rights Card

You can show your “know-your-rights” card to the officers, which lets them know that you will stay silent and that you want to consult a lawyer before saying anything else.

Keep Your Personal Information Close

You are not obligated to turn over your passports, I.D., or other documents that reveal your country of origin. You do not have to answer questions about your immigration status. Unless officers have a search warrant signed by a judge, they do not have the right to look through your documents or belongings.

Don’t Give Away Details About Your Immigration Status

You don’t have to tell officers where you were born or how you entered the US. If officers ask any questions about your country of origin, you may refuse to respond. Staying quiet helps you maintain control over what happens to you.

Be Honest

If you decide to speak to immigration officials, never lie to or show false documents. These actions can result in even more serious trouble, including deportation.

Your Rights When ICE Stops You in Public

You Have the Right to Refuse a Search

If you’re stopped for questioning on the street or in another public place but not arrested, you do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings.

An Officer May Conduct a Pat Down

Things might get tricky if the officer suspects you of carrying a weapon. In this situation, ICE agents have the right to search for dangerous weapons. They may conduct a “pat down,” a quick, superficial search over your clothes.

You Can Still Assert Your Rights, Even During a Pat Down

Even during a pat down, you can still assert your rights. You can ask the officer what information they have to justify their search. If you feel uncomfortable, you can request to speak with a lawyer before continuing.

You Have the Right to Legal Representation

It’s important to remember that a lawyer can help you navigate these often confusing encounters.

If You Have a Lawyer, Ask to Speak to Them

If you’re detained, you have the right to have your lawyer by your side to protect your interests. When you’re detained, speak up and inform the officer that you wish to speak with your lawyer immediately. If you have a signed DHS Form G-28, hand it to the offer. This document lets the immigration officer know you have a lawyer who can speak for you.

If You Don’t Have a Lawyer, Tell Them You Want to Consult One

If you don’t already have an immigration attorney, don’t worry. Ask the officers for a list of pro bono (free) lawyers, or reach out to your consulate for help finding legal representation. Resources are available, and you don’t have to face this alone.

Don’t Sign Paperwork Until You’ve Spoken With a Lawyer

Don’t rush into signing anything until you’ve had a chance to consult your immigration attorney. If you decide to sign something without speaking with a lawyer first, be sure to read it carefully to ensure you understand what the document means before you sign it. It’s your right to have someone you trust by your side.

Get Legal Support

If you’re feeling anxious about facing immigration officials, you don’t have to face it alone. Having legal support to steer you through these uncomfortable situations will help you move forward with confidence.

At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., we stand ready to guide you with understanding and expertise. Our experienced immigration attorneys can answer your questions, protect your rights, and pave your way toward peace of mind. Take the first step contact us today for a consultation.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!