Researchers anticipate that immigrants will account for 88% of the total U.S. population in the next 50 years. And those who have already immigrated face many challenges, including concerns for safety, stability, and opportunity. When accidents happen, these challenges are exacerbated as immigrants grapple with the fear of losing their status, or worse.
Below, we take a closer look at what could happen if someone who has immigrated to the U.S. is involved in an auto accident.
In Connecticut, police officers cannot arrest undocumented immigrants without criminal charges. However, a case in 2017 proved that law enforcement does not always follow this protocol. Police officers arrested an immigrant involved in a minor car accident for not having a driver’s license or citizenship documentation. The consequences of this led to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arriving to evaluate the situation. An immigration advocate spoke on behalf of the immigrant and said that the officer was acting in violation of the TRUST Act.
This case is important for two reasons: the TRUST Act and ICE detainers. Understanding these two factors is crucial if you are an immigrant who has been in an accident.
The TRUST Act
The TRUST Act is a law in Connecticut that offers protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants who have not been charged or convicted of a felony. This act is helpful in the prevention of indiscriminate arrests of immigrants in local areas.
The TRUST Act serves as a check for ICE detainers, which are not official warrants; and, in Connecticut, it is unlawful to detain an immigrant without a criminal warrant. This is important for immigrants involved in car accidents because it effectively means that they cannot be arrested due to information discovered at the accident scene.
In the 2017 case mentioned above, the arrest was considered unlawful because it resulted from police involvement due to an accident rather than due to a search warrant.
What Is ICE?
ICE is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The agency serves as an internal protective measure against outside threats involving border crime and illegal immigration. However, in recent years, ICE has become a controversial federal agency due to an uptick in arrests, raids, and DACA.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is an immigration policy that allows some individuals who arrived in the United States as children to receive deferred action for two years. This means that qualifying immigrants may avoid deportation during their period of deferred action, and that includes any accidents that occur during that period.
General Information for Car Accident Victims
In the event of an auto collision, all involved parties – including those with a pending immigration status – should follow safety protocols to ensure that everyone is protected.
As soon as it is safe to exit your vehicle after an accident, check on any passengers in the car and any others involved in the accident. Stay on the scene and make sure the other party remains also. If the accident took place in a dangerous area, be sure to move to a safer location nearby. Once you have moved to a safe location, notify local law enforcement, as you’ll want a official police report when filing a claim. Be sure to also take detailed notes of the insurance information of other drivers involved and any environmental elements that could have contributed to the accident.
If you or anyone else was injured, call emergency medical services. Even if your injuries are minor, you may be experiencing shock from your accident. Many immigrants also have concerns about how their resulting injuries could affect their ability to work. This is where an attorney should be involved to ensure your rights are protected.
Speaking with Law Enforcement
You have rights regarding your health and safety after a car accident regardless of your immigration status. Unfortunately, when law enforcement gets involved, it can be easy to feel pressured to answer questions regarding your immigration status; however, questions that do not pertain to the accident may not be warranted, so make sure to obtain legal representation to protect your rights and best interests.
Connecticut lawmakers have taken measures to protect immigrants from unlawful arrest and detention, but ICE and local law enforcement do not always observe these measures. If law enforcement officers question your status as an immigrant, you have the right to remain silent.
If you are involved in an accident, consult a qualified legal consultant as soon as possible. It is unlikely that ICE would be present at your accident, but there are a few important things to remember if they become involved in your case:
- If immigration officers arrive on the scene, do not panic.
- Answer questions calmly and honestly.
- If asked, you must present your immigration papers if you have them with you. You should always keep your documents with you if you are over the age of 18.
- If an immigration officer asks to search you, you have the right to say no. Agents do not have the right to search you without consent or probable cause.
If you believe you have been unlawfully questioned or searched, contact an attorney.
Helping You Move Forward
Car accidents are disorienting and traumatic. Individuals who are struggling with the aftermath of an accident should not also have to ponder the potential effect it could have on their immigration status. The team at the Law Offices of James A. Welcome understands that this is a stressful time. Our attorneys have helped with personal injury claims and immigration concerns for over 15 years. We are an award-winning team of compassionate legal professionals with the skills you need to protect your rights as an immigrant.
Call today at (203) 806-7922 or visit the Law Offices of James A. Welcome online to schedule an appointment.