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Know Your Rights 2017: 1st, 4th & 5th Amendments

Three Important Rights you need to Know

Regardless of your religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, or immigration status, you have certain rights and you must know when to invoke them based on your situation.

1)    You have a Right to Speak Your Mind – The First Amendment protects your right to speak freely and to advocate for social change. You have a right to stand up to law enforcement officials who target free speech activities. Our history has shown that peaceful protects and advocacy for change has produced powerful results for our country. It is best to refrain from engaging in political activities if you are a non-citizen as it may make you a easy target by the Department of Homeland Security.

2)    You have a Right to Privacy in your home – The Fourth Amendment restricts the government’s power to enter and search your home or workplace, although there are many exceptions (exigent circumstances) and new laws have expanded the government’s power to surveillance. The house is the most protected out of all the places you could expect to interact with law enforcement. Do not invite the agent or office into your home. If a law enforcement agent or officer contacts you, provide the information of your attorney to the agent or officer and take notes for their reasons to contact you. That’s it. If they provide you with a valid search warrant, examine the warrant; see that it is issued by a judge and the specific aspects of your home being searched and the things to be confiscated. If you then invite the agent or officer into your home, watch them carefully so that they do a search specified in the warrant. 

3)    You have a Right to Remain Silent – The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives every person the right to remain silent: not to answer questions asked by a police officer or government agent. It is not a crime to refuse to answer any and all questions posed to you by a law enforcement agent or officer. Clearly and unambiguously state that you are invoking your right to remain silent and that you wish to consult with a lawyer. Make this request clear. If you do speak, you may be waiving this right so say, “I invoke my right to remain silent and I request to speak to a lawyer.” 

Particular Non-Citizen Rights

If you are a non-citizen, be sure to assert your rights. Demand your rights before you sign anything that may result in you being deported or detained indefinitely by the Department of Homeland Security. It is more important than ever to have an immigration lawyer stand by in the case that you are detained so carry with you the name and phone number of an immigration lawyer who can answer you quickly. This applies to legal permanent residents (Green Card Holders). 

At every step of the immigration process, whether you are detained or your family is detained, you have a right to call a lawyer and have him/her be present with you at a hearing before an immigration judge. You do not have a right, however, to a government-appointed attorney if you are placed in removal proceedings. The immigration judge will give you a list of pro bono or low cost attorneys who can assist you in your proceedings. 

Remember to never present false documents regarding your immigration status. You will be at a very high risk of being deported quickly. Always maintain a file with all your immigration documents, keep them in a safe place or with a trusted individual. Again, assert your right to speak to a lawyer when asked about your immigration status, utter the words “my lawyer will answer any and all questions.”

There are different ways to find an immigration lawyer. You can ask to speak to your consulate to provide you with a lawyer, you can speak to a friend to hire a lawyer for you, and if you are placed in proceedings without a lawyer, you can ask the immigration judge for time to find a lawyer. 

At port of entries, such as airports, your rights are diminished. Remember that the you cannot be removed, searched, or stopped solely on national origin, race, religion, sex, or ethnicity. Always remember to invoke your right to remain silent until and unless you have access to a lawyer. 

- Sent to Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC by a friend & current law student

 

Gordon Landefeld