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How Immigrants Should Evaluate and Minimize Their Risks While Protesting

June 25, 2020
Marjorie M. Filice

Recent events have many of us wondering how to get involved in protesting racism in this country. For our immigrant clients who are not U.S. citizens, we wanted to share some guidance about participating in organized demonstrations. Whether or not to participate in a protest, march or demonstration is a highly personal decision, with additional considerations for noncitizens.

Identification and contact information: Always keep your state, local or student ID with you when participating in an organized demonstration. We do not recommend carrying with you any kind of foreign ID or documents, like a work permit, that show your immigration status. Before participating in a protest, make sure you have the number for your immigration attorney or an immigration hotline to contact in the event of an emergency.

Know your rights: Participating in organized demonstrations will increase your risk of contact with law enforcement. For anyone participating in a peaceful demonstration, there is a relatively low risk of arrest, but it is certainly possible. We urge our clients to familiarize themselves with their rights in the event of an arrest. For example, as a noncitizen you have the right to remain silent when interacting with police, and do not need to disclose your immigration status, birth country, or how you entered the country. Do not show false documents or claim to be a U.S. citizen if you are not one.

Know your risks: Depending on your immigration status, the risk involved in marching may be very low (for example, for a green card holder) or much higher (for a person with no authorized status). In 2017, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order requiring DHS to consider those who “[h]ave been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved” or who “[h]ave committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” as priorities for enforcement. Therefore, noncitizens may be at increased risk of deportation if they are charged with offenses, even if those charges are later dropped. If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense, please be sure that your criminal defense attorney contacts your immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan before discussing your case with a prosecutor or judge. Certain criminal consequences can derail your immigration options, and it’s important that your criminal defense attorney and your immigration attorney work towards an option that does not hurt your immigration.

Technology tips: Protestors should consider leaving their cell phones at home so they cannot be searched in the event of arrest. If you must have your phone, it is best to remove fingerprint or Face-ID unlock features, and turn off location tracking, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If you do choose to leave your phone at home, be sure to otherwise bring with you contact information for an emergency contact. We also encourage noncitizens to avoid posting about participation on social media channels, even after an event is over.

If you have any questions regarding your decision to participate in protests or demonstrations, please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan.

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