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Advice for the Immigrant: Your rights if stopped by Border Patrol

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

If you are an undocumented immigrant or even a permanent resident in the United States, would you know what to say or do if ever stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol or the Department of Homeland Security?  Did you know that both U.S. citizens and the undocumented have a right to due process or a fair trial under the U.S. Constitution?

Lorain’s Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP) and Los Unidos teamed up to discuss undocumented and documented immigrants’ legal rights because border patrol agents are not just in California, Arizona, and Texas, but there is a growing local presence of border patrol in Lorain and throughout Ohio in venues such as Sandusky and Toledo.

“For the past like three years or so, we are seeing ICE (immigration customs enforcement) and border patrol agents here more and more,” said Mike Ferrer, involved with CHIP and its annual Hispanic Leadership Conference, and the Lorain County Urban League—“They are parked in churches’ parking lots, parked across the street from stores. They are here. Now we are going to come in contact with this.”

Immigration attorney Michael J. Rendón and Spanish language court interpreter Alvaro DeCola presented: “Knowing your rights when being stopped by Border Patrol,” to an audience of roughly 25 people at the St. Joseph Community Center’s Gould Auditorium in Lorain, Nov. 16, 2011.

Alvaro DeCola

Michael J. Rendón

Among the audience were: Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera; former Lorain police officer and Lorain County Sheriff’s Captain Rich Reséndez; Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo; author and teacher Hilaire Tavenner; CEO and President of the Lorain County Urban League George Lambert; also, college students, parents and at least one former defense attorney.

But there was one notable absence. No immigrants attended the forum and the speech was intended for them. Rendón said he was disappointed that the turnout did not include immigrants, those who would benefit the most from his practical advice.


Rendón: U.S. was founded on immigration, immigration reform necessary

As an immigration law attorney today, Rendón said he “fights for” and defends immigrants with their legal issues. But he once found himself on the other side of the coin: he worked as a border patrol agent in El Paso, Texas, enforcing the U.S. immigration laws for several years.

Rendón, son of a Mexican father and Irish mother, grew up in a predominately Latino San Antonio, Texas but said Spanish was barely spoken in their home.

He completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army, received his B.A. in legal studies and Juris Doctorate, and retired after a 28-year career with the federal government where he served as a special agent and assistant officer.

Rendón said he believes in the need for immigration laws and for protecting the U.S. borders, but said he also believes in compassion and that the country was founded on immigration.

He added the U.S. immigration system has flaws that allow “unreasonable situations,” and said he hopes the country will undergo immigration reform that “will allow families to stay together.”

Rendón said he is offended when an immigrant, who may have entered the country with or without documentation, marries into a bona fide or true relationship with a U.S. citizen, has U.S. citizen children, and yet is still deported and barred from re-entering the country for long periods of time.

“What I’m fighting for, is for the most part, hard working people, who have simply come here to work to better themselves and their families, and in the process they better the United States,” Rendón said.

Alvaro DeCola, a native of Uruguay, is a Spanish language court interpreter certified by the U.S. Courts, and a lawyer with more than 15 years experience in criminal law, worker’s compensation, family law, and immigration law. He was a legal intern for the Community Health Advocacy Law Clinic at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law.

Rendón and DeCola said the U.S. Constitution’s 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments, as well as other legal cases, grant rights and due process to both citizens and immigrants.

The 4th amendment protects the individual from unreasonable searches and seizures. It also requires the officer to have a warrant and reasonable suspicion or grounds in order to stop or make an arrest.

Rendón said “looking illegal or looking Hispanic” is not enough suspicion for a police or border patrol agent to detain an individual.

And any officer violating those individual’s rights will face consequences in court, like having the evidence collected be thrown out in court and case be dismissed.


Yet Rendón and DeCola said many immigrants do not know about these rights. They provided practical advice:

• Never consent to a search without a warrant. An individual may decline to a search of his or her person, vehicle or house, if the officer does not have a warrant, though there are some exceptions to that rule.  One exception where an officer does not need a warrant: if the individual consents to a search.

• The individual has the right to remain silent. You may refuse to answer questions in a respectful way. Confessing to anything can be used in court. Plus, do not argue with police.

• An immigrant has the right to ask to speak with a lawyer. Never agree to be removed or deported without first speaking to a lawyer. Rendón added not just anyone but a lawyer who knows immigration law.

Rendón explained that often when immigrants are arrested, they agree to be deported and perhaps sign deportation documents because they believe they will be sent back to their country of origin immediately. But deportation does not happen right away. Instead, the individual may be held in jail for months before being deported and prevented from re-entering the country. DeCola said a lawyer instead may help to prevent the deportation, or have the immigrant to sign for a voluntary departure which will allow the immigrant to continue the immigration process even after being deported.

• During an automobile search, only the driver is required to speak; the passengers have the right to politely decline to speak.

• Do not run from police. Police could use that as probable suspicion for further interrogation or arrest.

• Carry a business or identification card. Never carry fake documents.

• An individual may ask if he or she is under arrest, why he or she is being stopped or arrested, and may ask if he or she is free to leave.

• An individual can walk away from police unless police show force by ordering to stop, by pulling a weapon, or physical contact.

Tavenner said she also hopes the country will undergo immigration reform.

 “Too many beautiful people are being ripped from their families,” Tavenner said “I’m all for people coming here. But the law is so convoluted. They should come here legally and honestly but we need to make the law easier for that to happen,” she said.


Editor’s Note: Contact information— Michael J. Rendón at 3100 E. 45th Street, Suite 316, Cleveland, or call (216) 202-0069, or (216) 394-0661 or at http://www.rendon-decola.com. Contact Alvaro DeCola at (330) 598-1466.

See this story in Spanish in next week's edition of La Prensa.

Vea este artículo de La Prensa en español la próxima semana.


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/06/11 17:03:23 -0800.





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