Border Patrol's reach extends further than just the border. A federal law says that they can conduct searches 'within a reasonable distance' from the U.S. border, which is 100 miles from any boundary of the U.S. Most major cities in the U.S. fall into this zone, in addition to the entire state of Florida.
Even though the CBP (Customs & Border Protection) has a wide reach, it is important to know the key rights that apply to all situations when encountering immigration officials:
- The Right to Remain Silent
No matter what you immigration status is, you do not have to answer the agent's questions. You can choose to remain silent, or tell the agent that you will only speak in the presence of an attorney. Your silence will not be the cause of their reason to suspect or detain you.
- The Need for "Reasonable Suspicion" and "Probable Cause"
An agent needs to have facts that make them believe you are violating immigration law. If you are detained, you can ask the agent for their reason for detaining you, and they should be able to tell you.
You can say "no" to them searching your belongings if they do not provide you with their reason for suspicion.
Your silence, race or ethnicity cannot suffice to prove probable cause or reasonable suspicion. If you ask "am I free to leave," the agent needs to provide a valid reason for detaining you. An officer cannot arrest you without having probable cause that you are violating immigration law.
CBP searches can take place on buses and trains, at official immigration checkpoints, and during roving patrols. For all of these instances, the CBP will need to prove reasonable suspicion and probable doubt before detaining any immigrants, and it is your right to ask for the basis of their suspicion when they detain you.
The longer you are detained by CBP, the more reasons for suspicion they need. If the detention or arrest become prolonged, they will need to show probable cause that you committed a violation of the law. At any time, you have the right to ask the agent about the reason they are detaining you, and they should be able to tell you.
- Documents Depend on Immigration Status
U.S. citizens do not have to carry proof of citizenship within the U.S. If you are a documented immigrant over the age of 18, it is advisable to carry documents with you. If you are an immigrant without documents, you can decline the officer's request.
- Criteria for Expedited Removal
If you entered the United States without inspection in the last 14 days and have been stopped by immigration officials in the 'Border Zone,' you can qualify for expedited removal, which allows you to return to your home country without facing an immigration judge. If an immigration official tells you that you are subject to expedited removal but you do not meet these requirements, let the agent know. Additionally, if you are trying to escape harm or persecution in your home country, immediately inform the agents about your fear.