Richa Puri is a seasoned immigration attorney in the Ask Ellis network with over 14 years of experience representing individuals & businesses. I had the pleasure of working with Richa during my time at SAKHI where she held monthly pro-bono immigration clinics.
I recently got the chance to catch up with Richa where we dove into Trump, Brexit and the rise of populism. No surprise, we landed on the topic of protests. Populism is not new, but as we live through a new wave of it and see large groups of people mobilizing in protest against the current administration, I find myself in new territory.
While the legal consequences of civil disobedience are best discussed with a Civil Rights/Criminal Attorney, I wanted to specifically understand the immigration consequences of protesting. Could I lose my green card over a protest?
Here’s what Richa said:
Q. What are the legal risks of participating in a protest?
A. Getting arrested! I believe this is a general risk no matter where you live. How the police react / arrest people / charge people probably varies by state. However, the law does permit PEACEFUL protest. If it is peaceful, you should not worry about the cops since there is no reason for them to get involved.
Anyone who is not a US citizen must worry if they are arrested. If it is a peaceful protest, then nothing should happen.
Q. What if I am legally in the United States, but not a citizen? Could I lose my student/work visa or green card if I partake in protests?
A. Anyone who is not a US citizen must worry if they are arrested. If it is a peaceful protest, then nothing should happen. But, if violence ensues, you should not participate…leave! Do not engage in the violent behavior.
If you are arrested, do not fight. Do not give the police a reason to believe you are part of the violence. Do not lie to the police. Keep your answers short and limited to basic information asked of you, like your name and address. For any other questions, exercise your right to remain silent until you speak with a lawyer.
If you are arrested and convicted of a removable offense, you will be placed in removal proceedings where a Judge will decide if you lose your status. If you are charged, but not convicted in criminal court, nothing happens on the immigration front. If you are charged and convicted of something that is not a removable offense (e.g. disorderly conduct), you are in the clear as far as your immigration status is concerned.
Q. What should I do if I get arrested during a protest? Who should I reach out to?
A. Police can hold you for hours before they decide to pursue charges. Usually, for protest issues, you will get a low bail or even be released on your own recognizance (meaning, no money needed). Or the Judge can dismiss everything and wish you a wonderful day.
If you are charged, you will need a criminal defense attorney. Most people don’t know one offhand so ask to make a call, reach out to a friend/family member and have them contact an attorney. Under the current laws, before you are allowed to take a plea deal, you must consult with an immigration attorney regarding immigration consequences so eventually you will need an immigration attorney as well.
Q. What is a G-28? Does it make sense to have a completed G-28 before I participate in a protest so that I am already represented should something happen?
A. A G28 is a notice that says you have an immigration attorney. If you are arrested during a protest, that is a criminal issue so a G-28 isn’t going to be helpful in that scenario.
Q. Any other advice?
A. If you get arrested during a protest, try not to panic, do not lie and do not fight with the police! While the arrest can lead to a conviction that could trigger removal proceedings, whether that will actually happen really depends on the nature of the arrest / conviction.
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.