America is the land of opportunity, and there have been many immigrants who have taken advantage of what America has to offer. From Sammy Sosa and Gloria Estafan to Michael J. Fox and Arnold Schwarzenegger, immigrants have made their place in this land and contributed to all that is the United States of America. In fact, one of America’s greatest songs, God Bless America, was written by Irving Berlin, an immigrant from Russia. If you wish to take your place in this great country, you should do it legally – by submitting the proper paperwork and following all the laws. However, you may find yourself in the following situations:
If you are undocumented…
- Do not provide government officials information about your immigration status.
- Do not lie.
- Do not give false documents.
- Do not falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen, or vote in U.S. elections.
- Do not carry paystubs, if you do not have a legal right to work in this country.
- Do not carry papers from another country. If you do, the government can use this information in a deportation proceeding.
If you are arrested you should…
1. Find out who has arrested you.
Write down the name of the officers and their agency (Police Dept., FBI, Immigration), along with their identification numbers and license plate numbers. You can find this information on their uniform or their cars.
2. Don’t sign any documents before speaking with a lawyer.
Government officials may try to intimidate you or trick you into signing. Don’t let yourself be tricked! You may be signing away your right to a hearing before an immigration judge.
3. Contact your attorney or a family member.
You have the right to make a telephone call after you are arrested. Memorize the telephone number of your attorney, family member, friend or union spokesperson, and contact him/her immediately.
4. Contact your consulate.
If you are a foreign national arrested in the U.S., you have the right to call your consulate or to have the deportation officer inform the consulate of your arrest. Ask the deportation officer to see a list of embassies and write down the phone number. The consul may assist you in finding a lawyer or offer to contact your family.
5. Ask for bond.
Once you are in immigration custody, ask for bond (even if immigration officials say you are not eligible). You have to show that you are not a flight risk or a danger to the community. Also, get a copy of the “Notice to Appear,” a document that contains the immigration charges against you.
Besides attempting to immigrate and work legally, the single biggest piece of advice that will help you is: learn English and become a part of the culture. If you don’t know English, others can take advantage of you, you will bring suspicion upon yourself, and you will create resentment among the citizens. Help in learning English is available in many places, and if you live here you are already immersed in the language and culture. People from many parts of the world come here and learn English, so it can be done. If you are a parent, you should encourage your children to be bilingual – that will ultimately contribute to their success, no matter where they live.
This information is a general summary, and there may be exceptions or additional requirements that apply in an individual case. Information is given for demonstrative purposes only, and should not be relied on without consulting an attorney. Specific advice can only be given by an attorney who is familiar with facts pertinent to a specific case.