Know Your Rights: What if I am not a citizen?

President Trump has recently threatened to begin nationwide mass U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, which has caused many people to feel uneasy about what their rights are in such a situation.

To help all those who may not know what to do in this type of situation, we’ve put together a quick primer on what rights undocumented immigrants and foreign nationals have if law enforcement agents or investigators come to arrest them.

Do I have to talk to a law enforcement agent or investigator if they come to question or arrest me?

No. You are not legally obligated to talk to an ICE agent, police officer, or other law enforcement agent, even if they are coming to arrest you.

You do not have to reveal your immigration status to an agent if you are not asked for it. Be mindful that if ICE obtained your name or status illegally, it does not prevent them from deporting you for violating immigration laws, such as overstaying a visa or working illegally.

If you have legal immigration status and feel you have nothing to hide, you may wish to explain this to an ICE agent IF your lawyer is with you.

Regardless of status, if an ICE agent or law enforcement officer asks you about your political views, organizations you belong to, where you have traveled, or any other questions that seem inappropriate, you do not have to answer them.

What if I am a foreign national and arrested by a U.S. law enforcement agent or investigator?

Again, you are not legally required to talk to law enforcement, if you are a foreign national. In addition, you do have the right to ask law enforcement to inform your consulate of your arrest.

You also have the right to speak with your consul. Your consul may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or contacting your family. You also have the right to refuse the help of your consul; however, this is not recommended.

Should I speak with an ICE or other law enforcement agent before speaking with my lawyer?

No. A non-citizen should always speak with their lawyer or immigration law expert before speaking with an ICE or other law enforcement agent.

Many immigration or law enforcement officers interpret “enforcement” to mean deportation is their primary job, and do not believe that explaining immigration options or law is part of their job. Therefore, it is best to always speak with your lawyer first, so that you can review all of your options thoroughly.

What rights do I have as a non-citizen?

All non-citizens, regardless of immigration status, have the following rights.

1. The right to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions or signing any documents.

2. The right to a hearing with an immigration judge.

3. The right to have a lawyer present at an immigration hearing or interview with ICE.

Note: You do not have the right to a free, government-paid lawyer in immigration proceedings.

4. The right to request release from detention, usually by paying a bond

Do I have the right to speak with a lawyer before being leaving the U.S.?

Yes. It is extremely important that you speak with a lawyer before leaving the U.S. either voluntarily or by being deported.

Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen may be barred from coming back to the U.S., if they fall into certain categories, including some lawful permanent residents or applicants for a green card.

In addition, some non-citizens who leave the U.S. and return with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) permission may be swiftly removed from the U.S. if they end up in immigration proceedings.

Finally, some non-citizens that have been in the U.S. without USCIS’s permission may be permanently barred from re-entering the U.S.

For these reasons, it is very important that you speak with a lawyer to review your immigration options before leaving the U.S.

Do you need assistance with your immigration or criminal case?

Elkhalil Law is here to help you with your immigration and/or criminal case. We offer in-person, over the phone, and Skype consultations. Contact us today so that we can discuss your case!

Office: (+1) 770-612-3499
WhatsApp: (+1) 678-900-6845
Email: info@

Note: This post was originally published on 1/27/15. It has been updated as of 7/9/19.

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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.