The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives citizens and permanent legal residents a number of important protections that guard them against government abuses.
However, how do other immigrants fair? What about the undocumented or those in violation of the law because they’ve overstayed their visas? Do they also get the same protections?
They have them, but they may not know how they work
Generally speaking, all immigrants have Fifth Amendment rights. However, they may not be as familiar with them as U.S. citizens – nor understand when they apply.
For example, many immigrants don’t see much difference between the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers – but immigration matters are typically categorized as civil actions, not criminal cases. Consequently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are not obligated to issue “Miranda” reminders about someone’s rights when they are taken into custody and interrogated – and they probably will not.
This means every immigrant should become familiar with their rights in case of detention. These include:
- The right to due process: “Due process” refers to the application of the law’s proper procedures. In the context of immigration actions, due process means things like an evidentiary hearing and the right to mount a defense. Don’t allow ICE to pressure you into signing anything that forgoes these rights and puts you on the fast-track to deportation.
- The right against self-incrimination: Noone in this country can be forced to testify against themselves – but you have to be proactive. It’s critically important to remember that nothing you say will talk ICE into releasing you, but you could easily say something to make your situation worse.
- The right to legal representation: If you’re detained by ICE, you won’t be provided any kind of public defender to help you, but you do have the right to request legal guidance. You should make an explicit request as soon as possible (and repeat the request as often as necessary).
Spread the word. If you’re an immigrant (or know someone who is an immigrant), the wisest thing you can do is make sure that you commit your Fifth Amendment rights to memory. Seeking legal guidance whenever necessary is also a wise move, as knowledge and support are power.