Rights of Immigrants

This article was produced by CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Rights of Immigrants

This article talks about:

What can I do if police or immigration stops me on the street?

  • You must answer if they ask for your name, but you have the right to refuse to answer other questions.
  • Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, you can calmly walk away.
  • It is best not to lie, carry false documents, or carry documents from another country with you.

What are my rights if I’ve been arrested?

You have the right to:

  • Refuse to answer any question EXCEPT “What is your name?”
  • Ask to speak with your lawyer and make a phone call. Memorize the phone number of your lawyer or a family member who is in the United States legally.
  • Not give information about your immigration status.
  • Refuse to sign any documents.

REMEMBER: It is best not to lie, carry false documents, or carry documents from another country with you.

What can I do if immigration comes to my home?

You have the right:

  • Not to open the door unless they have a warrant to enter your home.
  • To see the search warrant before you let them in your home. Sometimes a search warrant will only allow them to search some areas of your home.
  • To ask if they have a warrant.
    • If they don’t have a warrant, you have the right to tell them you do not consent to searches.
    • If they enter anyway, you have the right to ask for the names and badge numbers of the officers, and say you did not consent to the search.

NOTE: If the police take items from your home, keep a record of what they took and ask for a receipt for the items.

What can I do if immigration comes to my workplace?

  • You must answer if they ask for your name, but you have the right to refuse to answer other questions.
  • Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, you can calmly walk away.
  • Immigration needs a search warrant or permission from your employer to enter your workplace.

NOTE: They do not need a warrant to enter public spaces of a business, such as a dining room in a restaurant.  They do need a warrant or permission to enter areas that are not open to the public, such as the kitchen in a restaurant.

Do I have a right to file a case in Connecticut court?

Yes. Anyone, regardless of their legal status, can:

  • File for divorce, as long as either you or your spouse has lived in Connecticut for one year.
  • Get a child custody order.
  • Get help collecting child support, call Support Enforcement Services at 800-228-KIDS.
  • Get a court order to protect yourself from domestic violence.
  • Fight employment discrimination.
  • Appear in housing court.

Note: If you are going to court and you don’t speak English, it may help to bring a bilingual friend.

Important: Talk to an immigration lawyer before you go to court. If you are meeting with a lawyer, bring:

  • Any “vital” records you have for yourself and your children such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees.
  • Any paperwork relating to your, your spouse, and your children’s immigration statuses such as passports and paperwork from immigration officials.

Will the police help me if my partner is violent towards me?

Yes. Connecticut’s family violence laws apply to everyone including immigrants. Your immigration status and the status of your partner should not have any effect on if the police arrest your partner for a family violence crime.

What is VAWA?

If you have been a victim of abuse from a spouse or parent who is a US citizen or permanent resident, you may be protected under VAWA (The Violence Against Women Act). This law allows victims of abuse to apply for a green card without the cooperation of their abuser.  This is called a VAWA Self-Petition.

Am I eligible for a VAWA Self-Petition?

You may eligible if:

  • You or your child have been physically or mentally abused by a spouse or parent,
  • The abuser is a U.S. citizen or has a green card,
  • You lived with the abusive spouse or parent at some point,
  • You currently live in the United States, and
  • If the abuser is your spouse,  you are still married or you divorced because of the abuse less than 2 years ago and you didn’t get married just to get a green card.

What if I’m already in removal proceedings?

If you were abused by your spouse or parent and you are in a removal proceedings (deportation), ask the Immigration Judge to stop the removal proceeding.  This is called VAWA Cancellation of Removal.  Eligibility requirements for a VAWA Cancellation of Removal are similar to those for a VAWA Self-Petition. Talk to an immigration lawyer to find out more.

What if I’m a conditional resident in an abusive relationship?

If you have a green card that expires two years after it is issued, you and your spouse need to file a petition to “remove the conditions” on your residency. If you don’t, you could be deported.  It’s possible to ask to “remove the conditions” without involving your spouse if you can show that your married your spouse in “good faith,” which means not just to get a green card, and:

  • your spouse is abusive to you; or
  • you’re now divorced.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and you have conditional residence, you do not need to wait the entire two years required to petition to change your status from "conditional" to "permanent." Talk to an immigration lawyer to find out more about theBattered Spouse Waiver for Conditional Residents.

Will the police help me if I’ve been the victim of a violent crime?

Yes. It is unlikely that the police will report you to immigration officials unless you are accused of committing a crime.

Crime victims who help the police may be eligible for certain types of immigration visas called  U Visas or T Visas.  These visas can help you get a work permit and you may eventually qualify for legal permanent residence.

What is a U Visa?

U Visas are for victims of violent crime that can help with the criminal investigation.  You may be able to get a U Visa if:

  • You were the victim of a violent crime that occurred in the US or violated US law,
  • You have suffered serious physical or emotional harm because of the crime,
  • You have information about the crime that may help the investigation, and
  • You get a certificate of helpfulness or I-918 form from a police officer, prosecutor, judge, or certain other official.  The form must say that you have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

Talk to a lawyer who knows about criminal law and immigration law.

What is a T Visa?

T Visas are for victims of human trafficking that can help with the criminal investigation.  You may be able to get a T Visa if:

  • You came to the US as a result of trafficking or were trafficked after you arrived,
  • You help law enforcement, or you’re under the age of 18; and
  • You will suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States.

Talk to a lawyer who knows about criminal law and immigration law.

Am I eligible for asylum?

You may be eligible for asylumif you came to the United States because you suffered persecution, or fear that you will suffer persecution due to your:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Nationality;
  • Membership in a particular social group; or
  • Political opinion

To find out if you may qualify for asylum, you can talk to:

Legal help for immigrants:

These programs offer free or inexpensive legal services:

Other Resources

For general information, visit:

To learn more about your rights, visit:http://www.casademaryland.org/storage/documents/KYR%20booklet_English.pdf

This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 5/2014. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this website is for Connecticut residents only.
Find help in another state.

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