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How do immigrants deal with police encounters?

On Behalf of | Mar 24, 2022 | Immigration

If someone is on United States soil, they have rights, regardless of their immigration status. This is a key to remember when dealing with immigration officials and law enforcement officials generally.

Keys to remember

First, to navigate encounters with all law enforcement officials, keep calm. Acting nervous can lead some police to assume the worst. Do not run. Running can escalate law enforcement encounters with, sometimes, deadly consequences. Do not argue with law enforcement. Instead, remain silent. Do not resist an arrest. It only increases consequences and the likelihood of a physical encounter. Do no obstruct or lie to the officer. Again, remain silent, even, and especially, when one believes they are being treated unfairly or their rights are being ignored.

Silence is golden

Everyone on United States soil has the constitutional right to remain silent. Generally, one does not have to speak with police, answer citizenship questions or even talk to immigration agents. Remember, doing so can and will be used against the person or anyone else, including in immigration court.


For those in the United States that are not citizens, if an immigration agent requests their immigration papers, they must be provided. However, this is only if one has them on their person. Remember, it is legal to say, “no” to a request for a search, and immigration agents do not generally have the right to search one’s body or belonging without consent or probable cause. Though, this is not the case at border crossings. In practice, this means that if one is a citizen or legally in the United States, keep those papers available. If not, or if one does not have them, invoke the right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. This will shut down most encounters and stop questioning. If not, get the officer’s information for one’s attorney, should some punitive actions subsequently take place.


Some states require one to identify themselves, if asked by law enforcement, but all states require one to hand over their driver’s license when operating a vehicle. Though, even in these interactions, Greensboro, North Carolina, residents should remember that no further engagement is required and one cannot be punished for refusing to engage with police.