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Immigrants have rights, too

As an immigrant, it can be difficult to know what your rights are if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law. However, simply because you are not a fully-fledged citizen does not mean that you do not deserve to have your rights respected. A general understanding of what you are entitled to and what burdens you face as an immigrant in Georgia can help you avoid potentially devastating consequences.

First, it is important to remember to always keep a valid form of identification on your person. Even if you are only stopped at a roadside checkpoint and not questioned for specific activity, Georgia law enforcement personnel are required to check the immigration status of any individual who does not have proper identification, even if they are not being charged with a crime.

Georgia has some of the harshest state laws of any state when it comes to immigrants, and many aspects of these laws regularly face legal challenges in the courts. However, you must be aware that you may receive what seems like unfair or harsh treatment.

Non-citizens still enjoy many basic rights afforded to citizens, and if you are charged with a crime, it is wise to use these to your advantage. For instance, while you should always be courteous to an officer, you are not obligated to give them any further information other than your name if you are being arrested. You are also entitled to basic Miranda rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. You may also have an attorney appointed to you if you cannot afford one.

One of the wisest things you can do as an immigrant in a region that is often hostile to non-citizens is to establish a relationship with an attorney before you need one. Consider getting a few business cards from this attorney and keeping them in your wallet so you know exactly who to call when trouble arises. The guidance of an attorney with experience in immigration law can help protect your rights when you need it most.

Source: Findlaw, "Georgia State Immigration Laws," accessed Oct. 25, 2016

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