Imagine you’re walking through your neighborhood — trying to get a brisk 30 minutes of exercise — before heading to work in the morning, and police stop to ask you about your immigration status. Considering the tense legal climate for all immigrants in the United States right now, being asked about your immigration status by any police officer — no matter who you are — could frightening enough to make your heart jump into your throat.
If you happen to be an undocumented immigrant, a host of questions will be racing through your mind. Am I about to get arrested and taken away from my family? Could I be deported? Will the police be violent with me?
The first thing undocumented immigrants need to do in this kind of situation is to take several breaths and try to remain calm, cool and collected. Instead of immediately answering the police officer’s question, you should do the following:
Ask the police officer if you are free to go
If the officer says yes, then you should calmly leave the area. Don’t ask any more questions and don’t answer any of the questions the officers ask. If the officer says no, then he or she suspects you’re engaging in criminal activity, in which case, you must stay. However, under California law, you are not required to show the police officer your identification even while being detained.
Your next best course of action is to remain silent. Tell the officer clearly and politely that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Then, tell the officer you want to speak with your lawyer. From here on out, no matter what the police say and ask, these two responses should be the only thing that comes out of your mouth until you have spoken with a lawyer.
Are you facing the threat of deportation or arrest for being an undocumented immigrant? Before being stopped by police and questioned, you may want to learn about your legal rights and options by discussing your situation with a qualified attorney.