For non-citizens living in Florida, the idea of interacting with immigration officers can elicit feelings of fear and dread. With the tumultuous state of immigration laws and policies in the United States, it’s not irrational to feel this way. Despite the challenging times, non-citizens living in the U.S. do still have rights when interacting with law enforcement officers.
It’s important for non-citizens, no matter your immigration status, to know your rights if ever approached or detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or another law enforcement entity. It’s entirely possible to get through an interaction with law enforcement without incident, so consider these reminders if that day comes.
What to say – and not to say
An important aspect to remember when interacting with immigration enforcement officers is that no one can force you to answer questions without a lawyer present. You can respectfully decline to answer any questions until you speak with a lawyer. This includes questions about your birthplace and how you are in the country.
Here are some talking points to remember:
- Can I see the warrant? If an officer attempts to enter your home or arrest you, ask to see the signed warrant for this action. If the officer has a warrant, look for a judge or magistrate’s signature verifying its legality. Without a warrant, you have the constitutional right to deny them access to your home.
- Here is my relevant paperwork. The quickest way to end an interaction with immigration officials is typically to show them evidence of your immigration status. You may do well to carry relevant documentation at all times to ensure it’s available in case of an interaction with law enforcement. Do not ever show fraudulent or otherwise fake documents to law enforcement. This will only hurt an existing issue or create an entirely new one.
- I need to call my lawyer. Perhaps the most important thing you can say to an immigration officer is that you want to speak with a lawyer. Even if you have never met with a lawyer or previously contacted one, keep the number of a Florida-based immigration law firm in your phone or written down at all times.
It can feel intimidating to interact with law enforcement officers, particularly for persons without legal documentation, but you have resources available to lessen this feeling. Know your rights when immigration officers approach or detain you or a loved one. It’s entirely possible to get through this interaction without it escalating. Take the time to prepare for this possibility and give yourself the best chance of getting through an interaction successfully.