expert before speaking to the INS either
in person or by telephone.
- KNOW AND ASSERT YOUR RIGHTS! All non-citizens have the following rights, regardless of their immigration status:
- The right to speak to an attorney before answering any questions or signing any documents.
- The right to a hearing with an Immigration Judge.
- The right to have an attorney at that hearing and in any interview with the INS (however, you do not have the right to a free, government-paid lawyer).
- The right to request release from detention, by paying a bond if necessary.
Noncitizens must assert these rights. If you do not demand these rights, you can be deported without seeing either an attorney or a judge. Leaving the U.S. in this way may have serious consequences for your ability to enter later or to gain legal immigration status in the U.S.
- TALK TO AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER BEFORE LEAVING THE U.S. Non-citizens may be barred from coming back to the U.S. if they fall into certain categories of people barred from entering. This includes some lawful permanent residents and applicants for green cards. Some non-citizens who have been in the U.S. without INS permission may be permanently barred from re-entering. In addition, some non-citizens who leave the U.S. and return with INS permission may be swiftly removed from the U.S. if they end up in immigration proceedings.
Remember: Knowing our rights is our strength. We must exercise these rights and educate others. Even though some of us may be undocumented, we all have the same rights and protections.
For more information, you can call CHIRLA toll free at 1-888-624-4752. If you need legal assistance, please call the National Lawyers Guild Ė LA Chapter at (323) 653-4510 or contact them at http://www.nlg-la.org. This information was provided by the National Lawyers Guild.
CHIRLA Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
UNDERSTANDING MY CIVIL RIGHTS
The Right to Advocate for Change: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of groups and individuals who peacefully advocate changes in laws, government practices, and even the form of government.
The Right to Remain Silent: The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution provides that every person has the right to remain silent in the face of questions posed by any police officer or government agent.
The Right to be Free from "Unreasonable Searches and Seizures": The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect your privacy. Without a warrant, no government agent is allowed to search your home or office and you can refuse to let them in. Know, however, that it is easy for the government to monitor your telephone calls, conversations in your office, home, car, or meeting place, as well as mail. E-mail is particularly insecure. The government has already begun stepping up its monitoring of e-mails. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS CANNOT BE SUSPENDED EVEN DURING A STATE OF EMERGENCY OR WARTIME.
- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO THE POLICE, FBI, INS OR ANY OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT, OFFICER OR INVESTIGATOR. Other than providing your name and address to a police officer who is investigating a crime, you are not legally obligated to talk to anyone: on the street, at your home or office, if youíve been arrested, or even if youíre in jail. Only a judge has the legal authority to order you to answer questions.
- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LET POLICE OR OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS INTO YOUR HOME OR OFFICE UNLESS THEY HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT OR ARREST WARRANT. Demand to see the warrant. The warrant must
specifically describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. If they have a warrant, you cannot stop them from entering and searching, but you should still tell them that you do not consent to a search. This will limit them to the scope of the search authorized by the warrant.
- IF THEY DO PRESENT A WARRANT, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MONITOR THEIR SEARCH AND ACTIVITIES. You have the right to observe what they do. You have the right to ask them for their names and titles. Take written notes including their names, badge numbers, and what agency they are from. Have your friends who are present act as witnesses. Give this information to your lawyer. A search warrant does not obligate you to answer questions.
- IF THE POLICE OR FBI OR INS OR ANYONE ELSE TRIES TO QUESTION YOU OR TRIES TO ENTER YOUR HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT, JUST SAY NO! Police and other law enforcement agents are very skilled at getting information from people. Many people are afraid that if they refuse to cooperate, it will appear as if they have something to hide. Donít be fooled. The police are allowed to (and do) lie to you. Although agents may seem nice and pretend to be on your side, they are probably seeking information about the habits, opinions and affiliations of people not suspected of wrongdoing, with the end goal of stopping political activity with which the government disagrees. Trying to answer agentsí questions, or trying to "educate them" about your cause can be very dangerous. You can never tell how a seemingly harmless bit of information that you give them might be used and misconstrued to hurt you or someone else. And keep in mind that lying to a federal agent is a crime.
- IF YOU ARE STOPPED ON THE STREET, ASK IF YOU ARE FREE TO GO. If you are stopped by the police, ask them why. Remember that their answers may not be truthful because they are allowed to lie to you. Ask "Am I free to go?" If they say yes, then tell them that you do not want to talk to them and that you are going to walk away. Then do so. If they say no, then you are being detained. Being detained does not necessarily mean you will be arrested. You do not need to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested.
- ANYTHING YOU SAY TO THE POLICE, FBI, INS, ETC. WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU AND OTHERS. Once youíve been arrested, you cannot talk your way out of it! Donít try to engage the cops in dialogue or respond to their accusations. The right not to talk is a fundamental right. Repeat "I want to talk to my lawyer" to any officer that questions you.
- THE FBI MAY THREATEN YOU WITH A GRAND JURY SUBPOENA IF YOU DONíT TALK TO THEM. They may give you a subpoena anyway, so anything you tell them may permit them to ask you more detailed questions later. You may also have legal grounds to refuse to answer questions before a grand jury. If you are given a grand jury subpoena, you should call a lawyer immediately (see contact information at the end). Tell your friends and movement groups about the subpoena and discuss how to respond. Do not try to deal with this alone.
- IF YOU ARE NERVOUS ABOUT SIMPLY REFUSING TO TALK, TELL THEM TO CONTACT YOUR LAWYER. They should stop trying to question you once you announce your desire to consult a lawyer. You do not have to already have one. Remember to get the name, agency, and telephone number of any investigator who visits you, and contact the National Lawyers Guild for help getting a lawyer.
If your home or office is broken into, or threats have been made against you, your organization, or someone you work with, share this information with everyone affected. Take immediate steps to increase personal and office security. You should discuss with your organization and with a lawyer whether and how to report such incidents to the police and the advisability of taking other legal action. If you decide to make a report, do not do so without a lawyer present.
Prudence is the best course, no matter who you suspect, or what the basis of your suspicion. Do not hesitate to confront suspected agents politely, in public, with at least one other person present, and inquire about their business. If the suspect declines to answer, he or she at least now knows that you are aware of the surveillance. If you suspect government agents are monitoring you, or are harassing you, report this to the National Lawyers Guild.
DO NOT TALK TO THE INS, EVEN
ON THE PHONE, BEFORE TALKING TO AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER.
Many INS officers view "enforcement," meaning deporting people, as their
primary job. They do not believe that explaining immigration options is part
of their job, and most will readily admit this. (Non-citizens who are victims
of domestic abuse should speak with an expert in both immigration law and domestic
violence). A non-citizen should always speak with an immigration law
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