Know Your Basic Rights Under the U.S. Constitution
All people, whether US citizens or not, have rights under the US Constitution. Even if you have just arrived, you rights under the Constitution must be respected by the government. There are many such rights, but several are more relevant to the average person. One such right is the right to remain silent. This means that if the police ask you questions and you do not wish to answer you have an absolute right to refuse. You cannot be punished for this in any way. You may ask to speak to a lawyer at any time and they authorities must allow you to do this. You also have a right to freedom of speech. This means freedom to criticize any government, including your home country government, and you cannot be punished for that. You also have a right to any religious beliefs you want, to start your own church, and to be an atheist and to try to convince other people to believe what you believe. Nobody can punish you for exercising these rights.
What should You Do if You Are Arrested or You Think You May Be Arrested by Police, FBI or ICE Agent?
If you are arrested by any government agency or police officials, your right to remain silent becomes very important. Most lawyers will advise you to remain silent if questioned by the police about something that you are suspected of. Many people think that remaining silent is only for guilty people. This is not true. We have seen many cases where clients have made statements to the police and the police have made mistakes in writing them down, either because of a bad interpreter or because of bad police work. (There is, of course, no need to remain silent if the police want to interview you about something you merely witnessed and where you are not a criminal suspect.)
If You Are Illegal Immigrant in the United States, Do You Have Any Rights if Arrested?
You Could Be Deportable or Removable if you are convicted of certain crimes (Lose Your Green Card or Denied Green Card)
Constitutional rights apply to all people in the US, whether you are here legally or not. This includes the right to remain silent. We generally advise clients who are here illegally not to discuss their immigration status with anybody if they are arrested. It is also important to remember that if you are not a US citizen, a criminal conviction can be very harmful to your life. This is true even if you have a green card. Lawyers see many cases where people assume that their crime is so long ago and not serious enough to result in deportation. For example, some well-meaning pastors advise their church members to apply for citizenship in order to get welfare benefits. If it turns out that the person has a certain criminal record, it can result in deportation. For example, we have seen several cases where men hit their wives and pled guilty to “domestic violence.” These clients did not view the matter as serious because it was only a small argument with no injuries. The immigration law, however, views such crimes as very serious. Therefore, it is very important that you see an immigration attorney before you plead guilty to any crime. Also, if you have a criminal record you should see an immigration attorney before you apply for any immigration benefit.