Having participated in many know your rights events on the aftermath of September 11, 2001, we have identified few basic things that an immigrant should know in order to deal with authorities when they come to you. This guide is limited in scope so please consult an attorney for more information.
Should I answer the questions of the agents?
You can definitely answer the questions, but no good attorney will advise you to do so. The reason is that anything you say at this point can be used against you. In fact, the only thing which is recommended at this point is to ask for an attorney. Asking for an attorney should stop the questions. Even if it does not, it will protect you in the future. The job of an attorney is to protect your legal rights. So make sure you always have an attorney’s number available. Please don’t think that by answering they might leave you alone. It might happen but again it is not recommended to answer without an attorney present
When I ask for an attorney, should they not provide me an attorney?
In case it is a criminal matter, and you cannot afford an attorney, the government will provide you an attorney. However because immigration law is civil in nature, no free attorney is provided. You should keep the number of an attorney or some organizations that help on a pro bono basis. This is in case you cannot afford an attorney.
If the agents come, should I let them inside my house?
Unless there is a search warrant, nobody can enter your house without your consent. Therefore, if an agent does not have a warrant, he/she might ask politely to come in. Once he/she comes in, the agent has the right to search the house based on consent. Also the rule of apparent authority, a roommate might consent to the search. Make sure if inform everybody in the house about the rules. Also make sure that you check if the agent has a warrant before letting the agent in.
What happens if they show me a search warrant?
If you are shown a warrant, make sure it is a real warrant. Check if a judge has signed it. If this is the case, you should allow the agents to proceed although you should mention that you are not consenting to this search. Do not try to intervene except by remaining silent. Remember you do not have to speak even if there is a valid search warrant. If they do not have a search warrant and still want to search the house, do not get in the way but make sure again to express that you are not consenting to the search.
What happens if I talk?
Anything that you might have said can be used against you. The worst part is if you lie to the government, they might use it against you. It is actually a crime to lie to the FBI, for example. Therefore remaining silent and asking for an attorney is the best option. Note that just remaining silent does not stop the questioning, however asking for a lawyer, should stop the questioning.
The above just few basic rights you should know. Note that as a non citizen, you still have rights. You need to exercise them. Make sure you are careful about protecting yourself in the process One should not act or refrain to act based only on the above. No attorney client relationship is created unless a retainer is signed by both parties.