For most of us, interactions with the police may make us anxious, but those interactions are generally routine. For immigrants though, especially those from countries with totalitarian and corrupt regimes, those interactions can be panic-inducing. However, immigrants, legal or otherwise, should know that they have the same constitutional rights as any U.S. citizen.
Reduce the risk of the interaction
One way to reduce that panic is to reduce the risk of the interaction. Stay calm. Breath. Do not argue with the police officer or speak sarcastically. If arrested or handcuffed, do not resist, run or obstruct the police officer in any way. This is especially important when one believes their civil rights are being violated. In these righteous moments, we may escalate an already bad interaction, but the fight is not hand-to-hand in the moment, it is in court later. As some court shows say, “tell it to the judge.”
When being pulled over
Again, the key here is safety. When the lights appear in the rear-view mirror, look for a safe, well-lit parking lot. If one is not available, pull as far over to the side of the road as possible. This action will make the police officer feel comfortable to, hopefully, ensure that they do not escalate the interaction. Everyone should keep their hands in full view. Roll down the windows, and, at night, turn on the cabin light.
Do not make a bad situation worse
Do not lie to the officer, especially if they are federal law enforcement or immigration. Federal law (and some states) make it a crime to lie to the police and federal agents. Do not provide forged or false documents. This too can be a crime. But, do not be too chatty either because everything that is told to a state or federal agent can be used in court proceedings, including immigration courts. The driver must identify themselves, provide proof of car insurance and registration and hand over their driver’s license when prompted.
The rights of immigrants
Just like any other person in the United States, Royal Oak, Michigan, and immigrants throughout the country have the right to remain silent. And, generally, no one must discuss their citizenship or immigration with state or federal agents. Though non-citizens must provide their immigration papers to a federal immigration official, if prompted and if the noncitizen has them. That immigration agent cannot search for those papers on the noncitizen unless given permission, and there is no obligation or requirement to do so. If one does not have them, simply say so, and then, invoke the right to remain silent. And, always remember, it is okay to ask for a lawyer.