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Immigrants: Know your rights with law enforcement

Even in the best political climates, immigrants face a lot of uncertainties. However, when there's an anti-immigrant sentiment taking hold among some of the people in your adopted homeland, many immigrants become unsure of their legal rights.

Here are some six of the top things immigrants should know about their rights when dealing with law enforcement:

1. If you have valid immigration status documents, carry them with you. Do not carry any papers from another country that could confuse the issue or be used in a deportation hearing.

2. Do not show an officer any false documents and do not lie to the police, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations or Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. While it is not a crime to refuse to speak to law enforcement, it is a crime to lie to them.

3. Do not answer any questions about your country of origin or how you got to the United States. Anything you say could end up being used against you later. Instead, simply but firmly announce that you are invoking your right to remain silent until you speak to your attorney.

4. If an officer comes to your home, do not open the door. That can be construed as giving "consent" or you may have something visible in sight that the officer could use as a pretext for entering your home under the rule of exigent circumstances. Something as simple as a carving knife could be considered a "weapon" that would give police the ability to enter your home and search it. Instead, ask to have a warrant slipped under the door. Only open the door if the police have a warrant.

5. Remain calm if approached by police while on the street. If an officer suspects you are carrying a weapon or are involved in criminal activity, he or she may "pat you down" but you do not have to give consent for a search of your possessions or person. Politely ask the officer if you are free to leave. If you are, do so. If not, don't argue, even if your rights are being violated—that can be handled at a later time.

6.. Memorize the phone numbers of your immigration law attorney, any relatives and a friend who can help you if you are arrested so that you can get help if you need it.

Source: Rhode Island ACLU, "Know Your Rights: What To Do If You're Stopped By Police, Immigration, Or The FBI," accessed Feb. 22, 2017

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