Legal Update: Immigrant Rights

What are my rights as an immigrant under Trump’s immigration executive orders?

Guest blog post by Angela Torregoza, founder at LegalEase.us, a boutique law firm providing immigration and small business support. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. In her free time, Angela blogs about art and social justice on Instagram as @venusinorbit

In his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump signed 90 Executive Orders, several of them relating to immigration. Protests by immigrants and their advocates ensued, prompting congressional and judicial actions blocking these orders. In this time of uncertainty, the lives of immigrant individuals and families hang at a balance. We’ve provided below some useful information to immigrants and their families regarding immigration or criminal justice contact.

Who is at risk?
The executive orders have broadened immigration enforcement priorities, making those that entered the country without inspection or overstayed a visa, and irrespective of whether or not they have a criminal record deportable. This means that someone who entered the U.S. on a valid tourist visa, for example, and overstayed and arrested for a minor infraction could be deported.

If you’ve been arrested:
Inform your criminal defense attorney or public defender of your immigrant status, especially if you crossed the border or overstayed your visa. Legal permanent residents (LPRs or “green card” holders) may also be deported especially if they have arrests or convictions. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, you should consult with an immigration attorney to find out how you can protect yourself from deportation. A criminal lawyer’s job is to address the criminal issues and may not consider the immigration consequences which can be very severe, especially under this new administration. Do not sign or agree to anything until you have spoken to an immigration lawyer.

If you’ve had prior arrest or convictions:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been pursuing LPRs with prior convictions, even if they did not serve time in jail, the case was from years ago, the case was very minor or a misdemeanor. Even longtime green card holders or those with U.S. Citizen family members have not been spared. ICE has also targeted undocumented people with prior convictions, especially if the case involved DUI, drugs, domestic violence, gun possession or child endangerment. If you are not a U.S. Citizen and have prior arrest or convictions, you should seek the help of an immigration attorney or a nonprofit organization providing legal services.

I’m at risk. How can I protect myself?
Plan with your loved ones in case you are picked up by ICE and investigate in advance the steps to take if a loved one is detained (e.g. which office to contact, who to ask for help). Carefully plan your contact with immigration and speak to an immigration lawyer before any contact. This includes regularly scheduled check-ins with immigration officials. Do not file to change your status, renew your green card or travel outside the U.S. without speaking with a lawyer. Avoid unnecessary risks that can result in interaction with the criminal justice system. For example, if you do not have a license, do not drive, avoid venues where police may interrupt the proceedings, take extra precautions for things that you may not normally have paid much attention to (e.g. littering, traffic violations, drug use, altercations). You should also keep in mind that police share state fingerprints with immigration and some cities and states have agreed to use local police officers to assist with the immigration enforcement.

What are my rights as an immigrant?

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to speak to a lawyer.
  • You do not have to share any information about where you were born, your immigration status or your criminal record. Ask to speak to a lawyer instead of answering questions.
  • You do not have to give your consular documents or passport unless they have a warrant from a judge.
  • You do not have to sign anything.

For more information about consequences of criminal convictions and list of free legal service providers, read our previous post, Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Know Your Rights. If you have any questions or would like more information, please email us at [email protected].

Angela Torregoza, founder at LegalEase.us

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