Ask Ahmad: Does Demonstrating Affect Your Immigration Status?

I’m Ahmad Yakzan, founder and leader of the American Dream™ Law Office, and I aim to help you strive for your American dream™ through the immigration system.

Many of us have been watching the news coverage on the murder of Mr. Floyd, and while I appreciate that many of my clients have been demonstrating for this injustice, getting arrested for doing so could have a grave impact on your immigration status.

I wanted to post this video to answer a few questions about what might happen if you do get arrested while demonstrating in the United States.

Question: Does the First Amendment apply to non-US citizens?

Answer: Yes. Many of you know that the Bill of Rights are the first 10 amendments of the United States Constitution, which apply to people who are not United States citizens. As a non-US citizen, you are allowed to demonstrate. The problem arises when demonstrating goes beyond just demonstrating and leads to something else. A lot of commentators online and on TV are saying that the United States Constitution does not apply to non-US citizens. However, in removal proceedings, one of the great arguments we make is that the Fifth Amendment rights of our clients were actually violated, and as a result, they should not be in removal proceedings. This argument has led to the termination of removal proceedings.

Question: If I do get arrested and charged, how will it affect my immigration status?

Answer: If you get arrested while demonstrating, the events that follow will depend on your status in the United States. There is a difference between someone being undocumented but a permanent resident, and someone who’s applying for permanent residency or some other permanent status here in the United States. If you are undocumented and get arrested for demonstrating, this may be problematic because many police departments have signed agreements with ICE to apprehend and transfer people to immigration. If you are demonstrating, it is very important that you avoid an arrest.

If you’re here on H-1B or F1 status and you get arrested, then the reason for the arrest will be determinative of what happens to you. I have represented people on F1 status who were here as students and got arrested for DUI. ICE showed up, canceled their visa, and put them in removal proceedings (or gave them some time to go back home). It is important to be very careful because an arrest could lead to the termination of a non-immigrant visa.

If you are a permanent resident and you get arrested, the reason for your arrest will dictate what happens to you. For example, if you were to be arrested and charged with rioting in New Jersey, you could end up with an aggravated felony, which would land you in removal proceedings.

Despite having many rights, permanent residents who receive a charge for a crime that does not get dropped could suffer consequences related to their application for citizenship. Specifically, the charge would cause the three to five-year good moral character clock to be paused and restarted only after the case has been dismissed or any probationary time has been served. If you are a permanent resident who has been arrested, hire an attorney.

Question: What should I do if I get arrested?

Answer: If you get arrested, don’t say anything and invoke your right to an attorney. Leave a phone number for an attorney with your family to call you in case you get arrested. You can call me 24/7 at 1-888-963-7326 and I’ll be more than happy to speak to you.

Thank you for listening. Please share this information on social media networks and feel free to leave a comment—I’d love to hear from you.