Know Your Rights When Dealing with Law Enforcement
It is important for all of us, regardless of immigration status, to know how to exercise our rights if we are stopped by local police or immigration authorities. We all know that in many parts of our country, there is not a lot of racial or ethnic diversity. Sometimes, that means that law enforcement officers single out people of color, or people who look or sound different than the “average” person. This is called racial profiling, and it is against the law.We all have an obligation to stand up against racial profiling, because that is the only way to prevent it from happening. Racial profiling has a serious impact on immigrants living here with or without legal status. Many lawfully residing immigrants experience added hassles and burdens when going about their lives simply because they look or sound different. In addition, most of the time when immigrants who do not have legal status are discovered and put into deportation proceedings, it is because they were pulled over by local police for violations like speeding, having a broken tail-light, or suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Some of these stops were based on racial profiling.
Do I have to answer questions about my immigration status if a local police officer asks?
Local police or the Highway Patrol are not immigration officers. They are not authorized by law to investigate or arrest people for their immigration status, and have no right to ask questions about your immigration status. You do not have to answer these questions, and we suggest that you do not.In some states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, they recently passed laws allowing police to ask these questions. However, most states do not have these laws. If you are stopped by police, you have the right to remain silent and politely decline to answer questions about your immigration status, and you should exercise that right! To protect all of us, you should not answer questions about your immigration status even if you are a citizen or legal resident, because these questions are not appropriate.There are only a few things you actually have to tell the police. You must tell them your name and address. If you are driving, you have to show a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If you don’t have any of these documents, you may get a ticket and have to go to court.