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What immigration information must you provide police?

Many immigrants living in the U.S. are understandably nervous when stopped by law enforcement officials, regardless of their immigration status. It's essential to know what information you need to provide if you are stopped, as well as what your rights are to help prevent unnecessary problems.

The American Civil Liberties Union has a Know Your Rights wallet card that's downloadable from the ACLU website. This is a handy reference to review and keep with you in case you are stopped for any reason and questioned about your immigration status.

First, it's important to remember that the rules are different if you encounter an immigration agent at a border or airport. If an agent requests your papers, you must provide them. If you don't have them, invoke your right to remain silent. Never lie about your status or provide false documents.

If you are stopped while in a vehicle, you should follow the same rules that anyone would for a traffic stop, including providing your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance when asked. Neither the driver nor any passengers have to answer a police officer's questions about citizenship or immigration status unless you are visiting the U.S. for business or on vacation. You have the right to remain silent, but you should invoke that right clearly and courteously to the officer.

Don't consent to a search of your vehicle. However, if officers believe they have valid reason for a search, such as if they see or smell drugs, they may do so without your consent.

It's important for all to remain courteous and respectful when encountering law enforcement officers. Being rude or argumentative only increases your chances of arrest. It can also endanger your safety.

However, if you believe that your rights were violated, you may be able to fight any charges that are leveled against you and/or take action against the officer(s). It's helpful if you can remember patrol car and badge numbers. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information, particularly if they captured the incident on video.

If you weren't arrested, you can file a complaint with the law enforcement agency, usually anonymously. However, if you are charged with a crime or end up facing deportation or other immigration hearings, any evidence that the officers did not act properly or respect your rights can be used in court by your defense attorney.

Source: ACLU, "Know Your Rights: What to Do When Asked About Immigration Status," accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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