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Know Your Rights: Attorney Offers Advice as Local Immigrants Brace for Trump’s Pledge to Deport Millions


“It’s so important that people know their rights right now,” says immigration attorney Glorily A. López. “I think there’s a lot of anxiety because you just don’t know what is going to happen next week.”

López exclusively practices U.S. immigration and nationality law, assisting individuals, families, and corporate clients. Her experience includes extensive work with family, employment, business and individual-based immigration petitions, as well as consular processing, naturalization, citizenship, and removal defense. In her line of work, there has been quite a bit of concern since President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this week: “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

Most people thought it was just Trump playing to his base and has shown a propensity to exaggerate. Also, deporting millions of people in the way he suggests would be a legal and political nightmare. The bigger goal of that tweet, many political pundits feel, is to generate widespread fear.

“He said at his rally that he wants to get millions and millions of people deported from the United States. If people do not have final orders of removal and have not yet seen an immigration judge, they have their right to have their case – unless they waive those rights – heard before an immigration judge,” López tells Madison365.

Glorily Lopez

“Immigration courts right now are extremely backlogged. There are close to 900,000 cases that are stuck in immigration courts nationwide,” López adds.”I can tell you the Chicago immigration court, which is the one that has jurisdiction over Wisconsin, does not have enough judges to hear these cases. For certain cases, we must sometimes have to wait years for a resolution. The thought that he can get rid of millions of individuals by deporting them is really contrary to the due process protections that we have regardless of the person’s immigration status.”

That being said, López, who is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the national association of attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law, explained that people should fully know their rights if someone asks about their immigration status.

“Our immigrant communities and our Latino communities still need to be vigilant and to know what their rights are in terms of what to do in terms of if ICE officers approach them,” she says. “There is a lot of great information out there. The ACLU is very good.”

According to the ACLU, if law enforcement asks about my immigration status you can do these things to reduce risk to yourself.

◉ Stay calm. Don’t run, argue, resist, or obstruct the officer, even if you believe your rights are being violated. Keep your hands where police can see them.
◉ Don’t lie about your status or provide false documents.

You should know your rights that include:
◉ You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents, or other officials. Anything you tell an officer can later be used against you in immigration court.
◉ If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you.
◉ If an immigration agent asks if they can search you, you have the right to say no. Agents do not have the right to search you or your belongings without your consent or probable cause.
◉ If you’re over 18, carry your papers with you at all times. If you don’t have them, tell the officer that you want to remain silent, or that you want to consult a lawyer before answering any questions.

Additionally, according to the ACLU, in some states you must provide your name to law enforcement if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you don’t have to answer other questions. Also, if you are driving and are pulled over, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, but you don’t have to answer questions about your immigration status.

“I usually give my clients a ‘Know Your Rights’ card that they can print and have in their wallets. Especially if they don’t speak English or their English is not really good,” Lopez says. “It’s important to remain silent; that seems to be the biggest issue. People give too much information thinking it will help and that they can get away with not being detained.”

“Know Your Rights” card

López says the reason why she shares the card in English is so that a person being stopped or questioned can hand it to the officer.

Back in September of last year, ICE made a round of arrests where 83 people in Wisconsin were arrested.

López says most importantly that people should not sign papers. “If ICE doesn’t have a final order they are looking to enforce, they could essentially attempt to get people to sign their voluntary departure. They could be out of here pretty quickly,” she says.

“We think that the most vulnerable individuals in immigrant communities are those that have final orders of removal,” López says. “People who might be at the wrong place at the wrong time during ICE targeted enforcement might end up getting picked up even if they didn’t have a final order – we’ve seen that nationwide and locally here in Wisconsin.”