Being detained by immigration officials is a frightening experience. However, you can do some things to make the process easier.
Here are some tips:
1. Know Your Rights
If immigration officials detain you, you have the right to remain silent and do not need to answer any questions or sign anything until you talk with a lawyer.
You also have the right to call your consulate and request that they provide legal help for handling your situation. If you’re an undocumented immigrant, this is still possible if law enforcement has proof of residency in a country other than the United States.
Know your rights and the process by which you are being detained. This will help you know what to expect and how long the process will take. If an immigration officer asks if they can search you or talk with you, politely ask why they want to do so before agreeing.
You have no obligation to answer questions about whether you are a U.S citizen. You also don’t need consent for them to detain or arrest you unless there is probable cause that you committed a crime.
Always carry a copy of your documentation (passport, work permit). Make sure it is updated.
2. Do Not Panic
Remain calm. If immigration authorities detain you, it’s not uncommon for them to confiscate your phone or wallet and ask questions like, “What were you doing here?”
If they arrest someone with you at the time of detention, keep quiet. Do not share any information about yourself until after speaking with an attorney. Otherwise, they could use your words against you in court proceedings.
Don’t engage in a verbal argument or try to flee from an officer if they approach. Both instances could lead to further detainment or criminal charges.
Remain silent during questioning, but remember everything possible. This way, when you’re talking with your lawyer afterward, they can piece together what happened and advise accordingly.
Do not sign anything without talking with your attorney first. If possible, ask law enforcement officers politely if they would allow you to call one after being detained or arrested by them.
3. If Possible, Pay the Bond Immediately
If immigration officials detain you, they may also ask that you pay a bond to be released. If this happens and you or someone else on your behalf can pay the amount owed immediately after being arrested, do so as soon as possible.
This will help prevent further detainment based upon financial reasons while waiting for an attorney or other assistance from law enforcement agencies such as ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement).
However, keep in mind that the immigration bonds process and requirements can vary. If immigration officials detain you and require bail, it is best to speak with an attorney immediately.
They can help determine if you can go out without having to pay the bond right away or if there’s another way besides a bail bond to get you out.
4. Answer Questions Truthfully
If immigration officials detain you, they may ask you to sign a document admitting that you entered the United States illegally. Do not sign this document until talking with an attorney.
Remember: You have the right to remain silent and do not need to answer any questions or sign anything until speaking with a lawyer.
It is best, however, if you answer all their questions truthfully. If you lie, this could lead to more trouble down the road and make it harder for your lawyer to help get you out of detention.
5. Act Fast
If immigration officials detain you, it is best to act quickly.
Call your lawyer immediately and ask what steps you need to take to get you out of jail as soon as possible if this is not a possibility-or, if they aren’t available until later that day or even the subsequent morning-then request an emergency hearing.
This way, one can occur within 72 hours from when you were arrested. There will still be some time left over before any legal proceedings begin on Monday morning (assuming it’s a Friday night).
The sooner you act, the more likely it is that your attorney can get you out of jail before having to appear in court on Monday morning.
If immigration officials detain you, it is best to remain calm. Please do not panic and remember everything possible from the moment of detainment through when they asked questions or had you sign anything.
Keep in mind that this could lead down a path where things get worse before getting better, but don’t worry! Legal help is available.