What to Do if Local Police Ask About Your Immigration Status

In Trump’s America, the line between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has become more and more blurred.

In May, a Minneapolis transit cop was caught on camera asking a passenger for state ID and questioning whether he was here “illegally.” Texas recently passed a law, which goes into effect in September, asking local and state law enforcement to question the immigration status of residents.

But without the experience, information, or expertise of immigration agents, local law enforcement are often ill-equipped to carry out the task. It results in racial profiling of immigrants and citizens alike.


What should you do if a cop asks for your papers and immigration status? Here’s a guide on the important constitutional rights you have, regardless of your immigration status.

  1. Most states don’t require you to carry an ID at all times, unless you’re driving, in which case you need a license. It’s a good idea to carry identification, so you have the option of showing it. But if you haven’t done anything wrong, police can’t arrest you for the sole reason that you have refused to show ID.
  2. Ask the officer who has stopped you if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, leave calmly and do not answer any more questions. If the answer is no, and you are being detained for reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, then at that point, you may be legally required to show ID, depending on what state you’re in.
  3. If you’re detained, you can show officers a driver’s license, a state or municipal ID, a green card, or a U.S. passport.
  4. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born or how long you’ve been in this country, regardless of your immigration status. Especially if you are undocumented, tell the officer out loud that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.
  5. Do not sign anything you don’t understand. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone other than your lawyer. And definitely don’t lie or produce false documents.

Editor’s Note: After comments and requests from readers, this post has been updated to include a more detailed rundown of your rights in situations where police ask for your immigration status.

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