Legal Permanent Residents or DACA holders may experience some risk when participating in peaceful protests, especially if they turn violent. You could find yourself engaging in or getting arrested for acts or crimes that can lead to deportation and possibly lose your lawful immigration status. Immigrants and non-citizens residing in the U.S. are covered by the U.S. Constitution; the First Amendment protects the right of peaceful assembly. However, the reality of joining in street protests or demonstrations, even if they are lawful and peaceful, can be more complex. Whether you have a U.S. green card, a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), or some other legal status, and if you are singled out or arrested by the immigration or law enforcement authorities you could risk your right to remain in the U.S.
Demonstrating is Not, By itself, a Risk for Deportation.
The U.S. Immigration Law (I.N.A Section 237) has established numerous grounds by which a non-citizen can be deported or removed to his or her home country. Participating in lawful, peaceful protests is not on that list. However, if a demonstration or rally gets disorderly and chaotic then it will become a problem to the public and law enforcement authorities will then get involved. Chances are that in the moment of being agitated you commit one of those acts or crimes that are listed on the grounds for deportation you might get yourself deported and lose your status.
Crimes Committed During Rallies Could Become Grounds for Deportation
The following are grounds for deportation that could be used against any non-citizen regardless of their immigration status if they have been arrested by the police or immigration officials during a protest:
- Having perpetrated a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) within five years after the date of U.S. admission (or ten years if the person obtained a U.S. green card as a criminal informant), and the crime is punishable by a sentence of one-year minimum.
- Having committed two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after the U.S. admission, where the two crimes did not arise out of a single scheme of wrongdoing or
- Having committed an aggravated felony any time after the U.S. admission.
The interesting thing is that these federal-law definitions are meant to encompass a wide variety of crimes, mostly found in several states’ criminal laws. People convicted of crimes such as aggravated assault, theft (such as looting), and rioting have been found by U.S. immigration authorities to have committed crimes of moral turpitude, therefore, making them deportable from the U.S.
But of course, if you are living in the U.S. with no lawful status, to begin with that makes you deportable. U.S. immigration authorities (Immigration and Customs Enforcement also known as ICE) have been known to appear in public riots. If they choose to detain or question someone it could end in removal proceedings; you just never know.
DACA Holders Run a Higher Risk When Rioting
DACA recipients can lose their status or be denied renewal and possibly face deportation for:
- Any major misdemeanor
- Any felony or
- Any three misdemeanors, whether significant or not if they happened in different states.
The phrase “significant misdemeanor” encompasses several criminal convictions. Especially for would-be protestors, these include crimes where a sentence of more than 90 days was enforced or involving firearms, trespass, or disturbing the peace. DACA holders must be cautious if they are in the U.S and decide to riot.
Be Warned if You Attend a Protest and are Unexpectedly Arrested.
Everyone has the right to let their voice be heard in the U.S. Be realistic and do not go to any protest and not expect to get arrested; you just never know. Have a plan in mind that if you do get arrested make sure you stay safe and have a line of communication with others who can help you. This plan might include:
- Surrounding yourself with friends
- Notifying family members about your whereabouts
- Taking a cell phone with which to record videos should in case you get arrested and
- Memorizing the phone number of a criminal and immigration attorney that is located within your locality just in case something goes wrong.
Be aware of how the protest is organized. In some cases, the organizers will look for volunteers to put themselves in the frontline to get arrested. Do not volunteer yourself to get arrested. Also know your rights in the event of an arrest, such as the right to remain silent and to refuse to show documents of identification that show your nationality.
Talk to an Immigration Attorney
Before you even attempt joining a protest, talk to an immigration lawyer to see if you are at risk of getting deported. If you or a family member has gotten arrested by law enforcement or immigration authorities get the help of an immigration attorney. Call the Gambacorta Law Office immediately at 847 433 9303.