Being an immigrant in the U.S. has become increasingly difficult in recent years. You may worry that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents could show up at your home or your work. Or you could worry about the implications a simple traffic violation could have on your immigration status.
As an immigrant, it’s important to know your rights and have a plan in place – in case you find yourself confronted by law enforcement. The first thing to understand is your right to remain silent. You are not required to answer any law enforcement officer’s questions. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to avoid talking to law enforcement at all without your lawyer present.
However, from a practical standpoint, you still need to be able to communicate to law enforcement that you choose to remain silent and want to speak to your lawyer. You may not have the necessary English language skills to convey these messages effectively. Therefore, carrying a know-your-rights card with you can help you if you have an unexpected encounter with the police.
What is a know-your-rights card?
A know-your-rights card is a two-sided, wallet-size card. One side contains a summary of your constitutional rights as an immigrant. The other side contains instructions for the law enforcement officer, explaining that:
- You choose not to speak to them
- You want to call your lawyer immediately if you are arrested
- You will not sign anything without your lawyer
You can print out these cards at home and give them to everyone in your family.
There are other variations on such cards, and many are also available in other languages. However, it is recommended to keep a version in English – so that the law enforcement officer can understand it.