Jose Antonio Vargas: What to do when stopped by police or an immigration officer

NEW YORK — “In this country, it is culturally unacceptable to be homophobic — thank God for that, but not only is it culturally acceptable, in fact, you win the White House by being anti-immigrant…”

That’s how Pulitzer-prize winning Filipino journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas sums up the state of anti-immigrant sentiments in the US today.

While his high-profile status makes him a target of such anti-immigrant rhetoric, he has the support of immigration lawyers and experts who are ready to help him if he ever gets detained or put into deportation proceedings.

Many of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the US do not have the same protections.

“There are many who aren’t prepared, there are many people who don’t know the facts, there are many people who don’t know what their rights are,” says Vargas.

A clear example is the first Filipino undocumented deported by the Trump administration, Rey Galleon.

“Rey Galleon, who ended up self-deporting because he didn’t know that he could have asked for a lawyer, he didn’t know that he actually had rights,” Vargas said.

That’s why the Filipino-American Lawyers Association or FALA has been providing the Filipino community with “Know Your Rights” town hall.
Regardless of immigration status, you have constitutional rights.

The first thing to know is that every single person in the US or has been admitted to the US has constitutional rights regardless of immigration status.

If stopped by an officer: you have the right to remain silent and if arrested you have the right to a lawyer.

FALA says if stopped by police or immigration officer in a public place other than airports or borders, an immigrant has the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer, if arrested.

“You don’t have to provide any information about your immigration status, that’s confidential,” said FALA’s Rose Cuison-Villazor. “You are not required to disclose that to any police officer, to an immigration office or to anyone who asks.”

If not arrested, you have the right to calmly leave if you are not under arrest, the group says you have the right to calmly leave, and if ICE or an immigration officer shows up at your door, there are proper actions.

“You don’t have to open the door, you ask for a search warrant, ask them to slip it under your door or ask them to show the right identification, give me the papers of why your are here, why are you knocking at my door… and memorize the number of an attorney,” said Connie Montoya from Filipino-American Lawyers Assoc.
FALA says if you really have to answer a question, tell the truth and do not provide false documents.

Remember all the details of your encounter with the officer, memorize your attorney’s number so you can call them, and know your attorney’s number by heart to be able to call them.

This information is not intended as legal advice, as each case is different. FALA recommends consultation with an attorney for personal expert legal assistance.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • h
    21 June 2017 at 12:28 am - Reply

    ICE, will pick-up this illegal “JERK” one day and throw his ass out of America. Who in the hell he thinks he is? This guy Jose Vargas is making ass of us Americans, by staying in America illegal. Hey ICE pick up this “JERK” right now.

  • mario
    21 June 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    If you want to stay in the US consult an Immigration lawyer, take note: Immigration Lawyer ONLY, NOT Jose Vargas.