Border Patrol boards Greyhound bus, demands proof of citizenship from passengers
Anti-immigrant rhetoric, along with policy moves by the Trump administration, have revived fears over immigration raids and mass deportations in the United States. Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide on suspicion of hiring undocumented immigrants.
And in South Florida, U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped a Greyhound bus en route to Orlando and demanded citizenship documentation, detaining a Jamaican citizen.
For the record: under federal statutes, immigration officials do have the authority to “board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any rail car, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle” within 100 miles of a land or sea border. In Florida, that means the entire state.
Some advocates disagree with this interpretation and contend that actions such as boarding buses solely traveling in the interior of the state may violate the Fourth Amendment.
However, should you find yourself in a situation like this, whether in public spaces, places of employment or private homes, all residents — including legal and undocumented immigrants — can exercise basic constitutional rights to respond to authorities.
“These enshrined rights are applicable to all people regardless of their immigration status and are a muscle that people should use,” says Adonia Simpson, director of the Family Defense program of Americans for Immigration Justice, based in Miami. However, the lawyer emphasizes, that “does not guarantee that the rights are not violated; that immigrants are not detained.”
These include the right to remain silent, the right to deny permission to a search of your person, vehicle or home, and the right to request a lawyer. What should you do when the authorities ask for your papers? Here are some tips:
Everyone has the right to remain silent by refusing to answer questions. It is advisable to give your name and the date of birth, so that your relatives can easily find you. But if you wish to exercise this right, say these words: “I exercise my right to remain silent.”
Do not lie or sign
You do not have to answer questions about place of birth or how you entered the country, or give explanations or excuses. But never claim to be a U.S. citizen if you aren’t one, or give false identification documents. Do not sign papers without legal advice either, as you may be signing your own deportation orders, or reveal your immigration status to anyone other than your lawyer.
If a U.S citizen is asked for proof of citizenship, he or she can choose not to answer, but there is a risk of being detained.
The Department of Homeland Security has ways to verify if someone is a U.S. citizen, however, there have been occasions where U.S. citizens have been detained or deported. Experts recommend that U.S. citizens know how to access some way of proof of citizenship like a passport, passport card, birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certification of citizenship.
Naturalized immigrants can inform agents that they are citizens of the United States. In theory, a citizen should not be detained by ICE agents, but if the person can’t immediately corroborate their citizenship status by presenting a passport, voter’s card, naturalization certificate or other evidence, then he or she can be taken to a detention center.
Experts recommend that permanent residents keep their immigration documents with them, such as their permanent residence card or green card. In the case of foreigners with non-immigrant visas, make sure to have handy an I-94 card, employment authorization or other valid document that proves registration with Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you do not have them, stay calm and remain silent.
Memorize identification numbers
This includes the foreign A # registration number with a nine-digit series and, if arrested, the prison identification number or name. Also memorize the telephone number of a close relative, any medications you take and your current immigration status, as well as criminal records, if any.
Consult with a lawyer
Before answering any questions, you can immediately ask for a lawyer. You are also entitled to a local call and to contact the consulate of your home country. However, the United States does not guarantee a free lawyer in immigration processes. And notaries are not lawyers.
Plan of action with family
If you are detained, it is preferable to have an action plan outlined, with an authorized emergency contact to pick up your children at school and make medical and legal decisions on their behalf. Keep in a secure place proof of your physical presence in the United States, such as rental agreements, income statements and financial information.
Deny home entry
If ICE agents arrive at your home, you do not have to open the door unless they file a search warrant or arrest warrant. Ask them to pass the order under the door and verify that it is signed by a judge. A deportation / removal order (ICE warrant) does not authorize entry without your permission. If you want to deny their entry, you can say: “I do not give you permission to enter. I will remain silent until I speak to an attorney. “
Sources: National Immigrant Justice Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union. For more information visit the websites of these organizations.