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What are my rights if I am stopped or detained by immigration officials?

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Rights when stopped or detained by immigration officials

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What are my rights if I am undocumented and stopped by ICE or the police?

If you are stopped by a police officer or ICE agent, keep calm. Keep your hands where the officer can clearly see them. You have rights during these encounters, but there may be times when asserting those rights is unsafe. Your safety is the most important thing.

 

Your rights when stopped by police or ICE include:

  • You have the right to remain silent. You cannot be arrested for not answering questions. Tell the officer you do not want to talk.

    • Do not answer any questions about your immigration status.

    • It is better to stay silent than to lie to the police. Giving false information could lead to criminal charges.

 

  • Unless you are under arrest, you have the right to leave. Ask the police officer if you are free to leave before you walk away.

 

  • You have the right to refuse a search of your things. An officer may pat you down if they suspect you have a weapon, but may only search your belongings with either your consent or a warrant. 

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What are my rights if I am undocumented and arrested by police or detained by ICE?

You have rights during an arrest. These include:

  • You have the right to ask for identification.

  • You have the right to be told what crime you are being charged with.

  • You have the right to not speak. You do not have to answer any questions or speak to officers. If you wish not to speak, inform the officer that you wish to remain silent and want to talk to a lawyer.

    • You do not have to answer questions about where you were born or your immigration status. 

    • If you are detained by ICE, you have the right to speak to a lawyer. However, ICE does not have to provide you with a lawyer.

  • If you are arrested by police, you have the right to make a phone call. If you are speaking with an attorney, the police cannot listen to your phone call.

  • If you are arrested by ICE, you have the right to call your consulate.

  • You have the right to be visited by your lawyer in detention. 

  • You have the right to have your attorney with you at any hearing:

    • In criminal court or

    • Before an immigration judge.

  • You have the right to a bail hearing within 48 hours (or 72 if you were arrested with a warrant). At this hearing, the judge will either set bail or release you without bail on a “personal recognizance” bond. 

    • If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, the bail amount might be set automatically, so you will not need to have a bail hearing. You should be told of the bond amount when you are booked. 


If you are arrested, do not resist. Resisting arrest can lead to more charges. It may also be unsafe.

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What can I do? +

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What can I do to protect myself if I am stopped by the police or ICE?

Exercise your rights. 

  • You do not have to speak. Do not give any information about your immigration status.

    • If you do answer questions, do not lie. 

  • Ask to talk to your lawyer before you answer any questions. An immigration lawyer can help you protect yourself and your rights. You may not be entitled to have an attorney appointed for you. Memorize the number of an immigration attorney. You can ask for a list of free or low-cost lawyers.

  • Do not sign any papers weaving your rights, especially if you do not understand what the documents say.

  • Keep track of your immigration number and give it to your lawyer or family.

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Last Review and Update: Dec 11, 2020