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Josue Teniente

Austin attorney shares safe response tactics for local immigrants

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

An Austin-based law firm recently held an informational session at the San Marcos Public Library in order to teach residents here about what rights immigrants have when dealing with law enforcement officials.

Josue Teniente, an attorney at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, in collaboration with Community Action, Inc., gave a presentation in both Spanish and English, then held a question and answer session at the end where he provided free, private consultations to anyone with additional questions.

Teniente said it is important to know that everyone has certain rights in the United States regardless of their immigration status.

“Everyone has certain rights, so for example, you have the right to be paid for your work. You have the right to be free from discrimination under the basis of race, color or national origin. You have the right to go to school, to call the police, to go to a refuge center for domestic violence, and to ask for an order of protection or an order of restriction,” Teniente said. “These rights apply to you regardless of your immigration status.”

Teniente said the most important consideration if one comes into contact with either a police officer or an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer is to stay calm.

“Do not run. Do not discuss. Do not resist, and do not obstruct the official. Even if you think that they are violating your rights,” Teniente said. “Keep your hands where the police can see them and don’t give any false documents or lie about your status.”

Teniente said to document everything that occurs, so that remedies to any potential violation of rights may be made later, but safety is the principal concern.

He said you have the right to remain silent, but you must affirmatively evoke that right.

“You actually have to say the words, I exercise the right to remain silent,” Teniente said. “Remember that anything you tell police can and will be used against you in an immigration court as well as in a criminal court.”

He added that if a person has immigration documents, they should show them. However, if an officer asks to search your vehicle or home, Teniente said citizens do not have to allow them to do so unless they have probable cause showing officers have followed legal procedures before asking to search.

“Remember you have the right to say no,” he said. “They have to ask your permission to search you if they don’t have probable cause, and if they’re asking you this question … that usually means that they don’t have it.”

Teniente said if there is a situation where a police officer or an ICE officer comes to someone’s home, they can’t come inside unless they have a warrant or are given permission. He added that if the officer has a warrant, one is allowed to request that their badge be shown through a window and a warrant may be slid under the door before allowing entry.

Teniente said if someone is detained, it is wise to have a plan in place–for children, especially, and memorize the family attorney’s phone number. “Having a plan can make a difference in a moment of crisis. If you’re worried, if you’re stressed out, having this plan can be one less thing to worry about when your life feels like it’s crumbling around you,” Teniente said.

He said there are different protocols if an immigrant is arrested by the police, criminal system or detained by an ICE officer, civil system. If you are detained by ICE, the individual may call a lawyer, but don’t expect officials to provide you with one. If you are arrested by a police officer, he said the government does have to provide you with free counsel. He noted that if someone is detained by ICE, it is important to remember what is termed the “A-Number ,” which is the letter A with nine numerals, used to track people through the system. One does not have to answer questions about country of origin, citizenship or how a person came into the country. However, at a border or an airport, these questions must be answered.“The reason why there are different rules at the airport or at the border is because there is no right to come into the United States unless you have a legal right or a visa to come in the government can deny you entry,” Teniente said.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666