How to Help Undocumented Immigrants and Refugees in the United States

One of the first things that someone should be aware of when it comes to getting socially involved with immigration is knowing your and their rights. People living unauthorized in this country are usually in constant fear of being stopped by the police, having ICE show up at their doorstep, being reported by a racist member of this country, etc. so knowing your rights is something key for this kind of situation because it can prevent a human rights violation action to the point of getting detained, families being taken apart, or getting deported, even if the person has their documents in order.


If you get pulled over:

•    You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country.

•    If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.

•    Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

If the police or immigration agents come to your home:

•    You do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows the police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.

•    Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

If you get arrested:

•    Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give any explanations or excuses. If you can't pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don't say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.

•    You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.

•    Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

Special considerations for non-citizens:

•    Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.

•    Don't discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.

•    While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.

•    Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

•    You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services.

•    You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.

•    Do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without talking to a lawyer. If you sign, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S.

•    Remember your immigration number ("A" number) and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you.

•    Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.


Secondly, there are organizations such as Voto Latino Innovators Challenge, which searches for young Latinx innovators to create mobile apps and other technology projects based on making Latinx’s lives simpler by helping them have better access to resources, legal advice, scholarships, etc. They give grants of up to US $500.000 to develop these projects and give opportunities for young entrepreneurs to create more opportunities and help their community. One of the most recent winners of this grant was Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, a young woman who discovered that she couldn’t apply for almost any scholarship to be able to attend college because she was a DREAMer (kids from immigrants who were brought to the US before the age of 16 or that grew up here, so they consider themselves Americans but they don’t have the documentation to prove that they are). When looking into finding more information on how to get grants as an undocumented immigrant she decided to create an app called DREAMers RoadMap where she put all the information that there is for DREAMer students in the US. Right now only people who had previously been part of the DACA program is eligible for reapplying for one. Unless it expired before September 5th, 2017. The government is not taking new applicants. To counteract the end of DACA, Dreamers need Congress to pass the Dream Act (a piece of legislation first introduced to Congress in 2001 that would create a pathway to citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children without documentation.) in order to permanently secure their legal status and ability to work. Until then, DREAMers are still at risk of getting their DACA status revoked for any minor incident so they are living in fear anyways. But, with projects such as the one that Sarahi developed we give these young immigrants at least an opportunity for a better future and different options if getting a green card is out of the picture.

If we keep refugees in a refugee center for their whole lives, as it sometimes happens now, or if we perceive them as criminals, it does not only hurt them but it hurts everyone around them and our future generation. So building up a good relationship when coming across someone in that position and making them feel welcome, integrating them into our communities, giving them jobs, telling them that they are brave, and not someone just running away, is something that can make a big difference in our society and within ourselves.

Finally, there are many other small things that we can do that make a big difference, things such as:

•    Text “Resist” to 50409. Send a message/letter to your officials (senators) with the changes you want to see.

•    Make them feel welcome and courageous. Mental health for young immigrants and refugees is extremely important for the future. Making them feel welcome and remind them that they can become someone important for your community can drastically change their view on their lives and everyone’s future.

•    Talk to your employers about hiring refugees/immigrants.

•    Reach out to resettlement centers to see if they need anything. Get involved. Send immigrants/refugees that way if they need it.

•    Connect with your religious institution to organize aid

•    If you know any other language, translate and/or teach English.

•    Speak up for those who can’t!



Diem 25

Why some immigrants are undocumented

Refugee crisis/why people leave their countries:

Largest number of immigrants:

know your rights

Humanity Crew, mental health of refugees.

DACA explained

Immigrants and refugees are productive employees!




This article has been edited since it's publication date, it's most updated version was re-uploaded on March 24, 2019 at 11:01 a.m.