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Know Your Rights When Being Detained | Deportation Defense Attorney

Regardless of immigration status, all people residing in the United States have certain rights designed to protect against invasive encounters with law enforcement officers including immigration officers. These encounters may occur at your home, work, or on the streets. However, immigration officers often do not notify you of your rights until long after you have been questioned. So don’t expect them to tell you your rights. Know them and assert them, before you have given them up!

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or give to the officer may be used against you in court. If you do not wish to speak to an immigration officer, you should state so clearly. Ask the officer if you are free to go. If you are free to leave, you may walk away. If you are arrested or detained, you do not have to say anything to the officer other than: “I do not wish to speak or sign anything until I speak to my attorney.”

NOTE: The federal government must prove that you are a foreign national before they can deport you. Without information or documentation about your alienage, the government cannot deport you. If you do not have legal status, avoid giving any information about your lack of status, country of birth, or manner of entry into the United States. Otherwise, the government can use this information to prove you are deportable from the United States.

You don’t have to open your door. If an immigration officer comes to your house, do not open the door unless the officer shows you a signed warrant. Speak to the officer through the closed door. Ask the officer to slip the order under the door. Make sure everyone in your household knows what to do if an officer comes knocking. Otherwise, officers do not need a warrant if you, or anyone in the house, permit them to enter.

NOTE: Unlawful searches may be challenged later in court. But it is difficult to challenge them without evidence. If the officers enter and search the home, make sure to note down all of the officers’ names and badge numbers. If possible, record the search using your cell phone.

You have the right to speak to a lawyer. If you are detained, you have the right to speak to a lawyer or call someone (to contact a lawyer for you). You also have the right to contact your country’s consulate.

NOTE: Do not sign any documents without first consulting with a lawyer. If you sign a “voluntary return” form, you will be returned your country without having the benefit of requesting relief in immigration court. Instead inform the officer: “I do not wish to speak or sign anything until I speak to my attorney.”

In addition, here is some useful information you should know:

  • Though it is important to assert you rights, do not physically resist, obstruct, or provide false information to an officer while being arrested or detained. These are separate violations which may hurt your chances of obtaining relief in immigration court.
  • Carry your valid immigration documents with you at all times, such as your lawful permanent resident card or work permit, but do not carry foreign or fraudulent documents because they may be used against you in court.
  • If you are arrested or detained, but have children in school or at home, immediately inform the immigration officer.
  • Create a plan in the event that you are arrested or detained. Keep with you the name and phone number of a family member, friend, or lawyer that you can call while you are detained. Make plans with a trusted family member or friend ahead of time, who can take care of important matters for you while you are detained. This person should also know where to find your important documents such as immigration records and birth certificates.
  • Carry and present your “I AM ASSERTING MY RIGHTS” (SPANISH TRANSLATION) card (below) to the officer, if you are arrested or detained, or if immigration officers come to your home or workplace.

I am exercising my right to remain silent under the law. I will not speak with you or sign any documents without the advice of my lawyer.

If I am being arrested or detained, I wish to contact a lawyer immediately.

You may not enter my residence unless you present a signed judicial warrant with my name. (Slide under door.)


Hand this card to the immigration (ICE) agent or other law enforcement officer if you are being questioned, stopped, arrested, or detained, by an immigration agent or other officer.

Slip this card below your door, if an immigration agent or other officer knocks at your door.
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