Univision: “In Trump era, immigration lawyers recommend everyone carry ID, no matter your status”

by Joseph McKeown

After a Border Patrol agent questioned two US citizens in Montana because they were speaking Spanish, legal experts are now recommending that naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, and undocumented individuals carry identification with them in the event that it is requested by authorities. While the women were able to demonstrate to the officer that they were US citizens and were not arrested, many immigration advocates found the encounter disturbing. Jaime Barrón, an immigration attorney in Dallas, Texas, says that “simply speaking in another language cannot be an illegal act, that could be discrimination.”

In response to this incident in Montana, a Border Patrol spokesperson tells Univision News that their agents "have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence. Decisions to question individuals are based on a variety of factors for which Border Patrol agents are well-trained.” Many immigration lawyers and advocates believe that incidents such as these will continue to occur and carrying documentation or identification is imperative, especially after President Trump signed two executive orders, one relating to a border wall and one regarding sanctuary cities, where President Trump states that many undocumented immigrants are a threat to national security and safety. 

Permanent and temporary residents should carry identification and evidence with them at all times to show they are legally allowed to be in the country, attorneys say. In fact, current law requires that legal permanent residents need to carry their Green Cards with them at all times. For undocumented immigrants, however, it is more complicated. “Those who can show that they have been in the United States for more than two years and have no criminal record, are able to contest their cases,” Victor Nieblas, an immigration lawyer and past chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), tells Univision. "Carrying ID is always a good idea in these drastic times, as well as receipts that can show uninterrupted presence. You must have proof of rent, children’s schooling, bank accounts, receipt for electricity and water. All that is useful.”

Nieblas does not recommend that undocumented immigrants carry their passports with them. If an officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains an undocumented immigrant and finds their passport, they will immediately be able to confirm their identity and status. “Ideally, they should carry with them any other document that does not show that they are a foreigner,” Nieblas says. “The goal is not to help immigration officials identify them and remove them as soon as possible, as required by Trump’s executive orders.”