What many immigrants forget is that, regardless of their status (legal or otherwise), everyone on United States soil is covered by the Constitution. Though, even for those immigrants that know this, they may still not know how to interact with police because of a fear of losing their status or being departed.
First, when interacting with the police, breathe, and stay calm. Even though one’s heart is racing, do not run, resist, argue or obstruct the police officer. Even if one’s rights are being violated, it is important not to escalate. Remember, keep hands where they can see them, and do not make sudden moves or grab for anything. And, importantly, do not lie to the police officer or provide false documents. Lying to police officers and federal agents can be separate charges, even if one did not do anything illegal to start the interaction.
Second, everyone should know their basic Constitutional rights. Primarily, this is the right to remain silent. This means that one does not have to discuss their immigration status with government agents, including police officers, immigration agents or any other government agent. And, if one does choose to engage, anything that is said can be used against the speaker or anyone else in court, including immigration court.
For those who are not citizens, if an immigration agent requests immigration papers, the non-citizen must present them, if they have them. But, if one does not have their immigration papers, then it is okay to tell the immigration agent that one does not have them. The immigration agent does not have the right to then check because non-citizens have the right to say no to a search request. Without consent or probably cause, government agents, including immigration agents, do not have the right to search a person or their belongs. If they continue to press, ask to consult an attorney or for an attorney. Keep repeating that request.
An exemption to the silence
This does not mean not giving one’s name when a law enforcement officer asks. Some states require one to identify themselves to police officers. In addition, if one is driving in Chicago, Illinois, they must give their driver’s license, registration and insurance information when prompted during a traffic stop.