The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that people have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The limits of this guarantee have been tested in numerous court cases, and the basic rules are clear. Unless government agents have a reason that fits into a few narrow exceptions, they cannot enter your home without a valid search warrant issued based on probable cause. The question most immigrants living in the U.S. may ask themselves is, does the protection of the Fourth Amendment extend to them?
The possibility of immigration enforcement agents increasing raids to look for undocumented immigrants is one reason for this question. Immigration raids, where immigration enforcement agents go to businesses and even homes, looking for people who are in the country illegally are allowed under current immigration laws. Undocumented workers who find themselves in the midst of a raid or who are visited by agents should be aware that the U.S. Constitution and other U.S. laws do offer some protections, even to undocumented immigrants.
The Fourth Amendment protections are guaranteed to all people living within the U.S., both citizens and noncitizens. A person’s immigration status does not affect this basic protection. This Fourth Amendment protection is one more right that is aimed at ensuring the government follows due process in arresting and deporting an immigrant. These rights apply whether a person is in his or her car or home when stopped for a search. Police officers and immigration enforcement agents also cannot stop your car for a search based on your race or religion.
Therefore, if immigration enforcement agents arrive at your home and demand entry, ask to see a search warrant. If the agents ask your permission to enter, and you grant them permission to enter, then they do not need a warrant. Your permission satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment because it makes the agents’ entry reasonable. There are other ways in which the Fourth Amendment may not protect you, and if you find yourself in a situation in which you believe your rights are being violated, it is better not to do anything such as resisting arrest or presenting false papers. It is best to wait for an opportunity to speak to your attorney.
There are some constitutional protections that are reserved for U.S. citizens only, such as the right to vote. Immigrants who are in the country illegally can make their immigration situation worse by exercising rights that are reserved for U.S. citizens only.
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Regardless of your immigration status, it is important to remember that there are laws that protect your rights. If your home is searched and you are arrested by immigration enforcement agents or local police officers, you should avoid making any statements or admissions before speaking to your attorney. You should also avoid signing any documents they present you with, even if they promise it will lead to your release. Be prepared by learning more about how the law can protect you as an immigrant; contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.