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Your Rights When Contacted by Immigration

Your Rights When Contacted by Immigration

For anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, coming into contact with immigration can be stressful and frightening. It is important to know that everyone in the U.S. has rights if they have contact with immigration, regardless of whether you have immigration status or are undocumented. For example: 

  • Sometimes immigration (ICE) officers knock on a door and say they have a warrant. An immigration warrant is not a police warrant and does not give them permission to enter your home. You have the right to keep the door closed and also to remain silent. 

If there is an immigration officer at your door, regardless of your immigration status, you do not have to open the door. You do not have to answer any questions they ask or give them any documents, like a passport or consular ID. You have the right to remain silent or to refuse to speak to them without a lawyer. 

Do not talk to immigration or sign anything immigration gives you without speaking with a lawyer. If you are being arrested by ICE and you have health needs or are a primary caregiver for a child, it is important to tell them this to make sure you have your medications and/or make arrangements for childcare.  

You can find an immigration attorney at low or no cost here.  

There is a difference between a search or arrest warrant from the police and an arrest warrant from immigration. A warrant from the police is a piece of paper signed by a state or federal judge that lets the police make certain arrests or do certain searches. This is also called a judicial warrant. Learn more about your rights when contacted by the police here.

An immigration warrant, also known as an ICE warrant, is a piece of paper signed by an immigration officer that lets them make an arrest.  It says the word “warrant” but it does not have to be signed by a judge. It also does not allow ICE to legally enter your home or search your home or your person without your permission. You do not have to open the door to your home for ICE. If you are not in your home, but ICE asks to search your belongings, you can say that you do not consent to the search. You can learn more about your rights if contacted by ICE from the Immigrant Defense Project.     

Even though an immigration agent cannot enter or search your home without your permission, there are different rules if you are stopped while driving. If immigration officers or police believe there is evidence of a crime in your car during a traffic stop, they can search your car. 

Even if you are stopped while driving, you may not know exactly who is stopping you. You do not have to answer any questions that ICE or the police ask you, especially if you do not know who is questioning you. If you are asked about your immigration status while stopped, you do not have to answer. You have the right to remain silent.

Some states allow non-U.S citizens to get a driver’s license in order to drive legally in the United States. Check the laws in your state to see if you can apply for a driver’s license

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have authority within 100 miles of all U.S. border areas, including entry points like land borders and international airports. CBP has car checkpoints throughout the country, including 33 permanent checkpoints near the Mexican border, and temporary checkpoints as they choose. 

At these checkpoints, agents can question people in the car about their immigration status and do a visual inspection of the vehicle. CBP agents can also send people to something called a secondary inspection, which is where they ask even more questions. These questions should only be focused on immigration status, but can sometimes lead to people being detained for longer periods of time.

If you are stopped at a CBP checkpoint, you have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer any questions about your immigration status. But refusing to answer questions could have legal consequences.

Within the area where they have authority, especially around land borders, CBP agents sometimes board buses and trains, both on the road and at terminals/stations. They can only do this if the company or driver gives them permission. Once on the bus or train, CBP officers may question passengers about their immigration status and ask for documents. You have the right to remain silent, leave the area, or end the conversation.

You can learn more about who is at risk of an ICE arrest and your rights when interacting with ICE officers from the Immigrant Defense Project.

Everyone has the right to emergency medical care in every hospital emergency room, no matter their immigration status or whether they have insurance. This includes abortion access for non-U.S. citizens and undocumented minors.

It is true that immigration officers have made arrests in some hospitals. But currently, immigration officials are supposed to stay away from hospitals, health care clinics, doctors’ offices, and urgent care clinics. You can learn more about your right to get the health care you need here.

You have the right to have an abortion, no matter your immigration status. 

You do not have to share your immigration status in order to get an abortion.

Having a clinical abortion will not affect your immigration status. 

But if you live in a state where abortion is banned, you might need to travel to access abortion care. For more information about traveling in and out of the United States as an undocumented person, visit this guide by Immigrants Rising

Learn about your legal rights to access medical care, or call 844-868-2812 or contact us through our secure online form below.

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If/When/How provides technical assistance to reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, abortion funds, health care providers, law students, and lawyers about abortion laws throughout the United States, including up-to-date information about access to clinical care, self-managed abortion, forced parental involvement laws and judicial bypass, birth justice, and mandated reporting requirements for health care providers. The technical assistance we provide includes legal information and trainings.

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