Florida leadership has touted the success of recent efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. However, evidence suggests that the majority of the people arrested as part of the crackdown are living in the country legally.
What recourse do legal residents arrested on suspicion of illegal status have?
Local law enforcement ramped up attempts to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally in an operation that took place June 7-9 in four northwest Florida counties. Of the 22 people arrested, seven were people living in the country illegally. Law enforcement stopped these people for traffic violations and then arrested them on suspicion of human smuggling when they discovered their legal status.
Rights of legal residents
The 15 legal residents arrested as part of the crackdown may face criminal charges for non-immigration-related crimes, such as drug possession. The ACLU recommends that legal residents arrested as part of immigration crackdowns should cooperate with police and if arrested ask what the charges are.
While you must identify yourself if the police stop you because they suspect you have committed a crime, you retain your right to refuse to answer questions, including your right to not answer questions about your legal status. Do not resist arrest, even if you believe you are being arrested unfairly. Exercise your right to make one local phone call and request a phone that is not monitored.
Facing arrest because law enforcement mistakenly believes you are not a legal resident can be a frightening experience. It is important for all Florida immigrants to understand and protect their legal rights.