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Immigrants, know your rights!

Felicia Persaud | 2/9/2017, 10:54 a.m.

Fear and concern are palpable in the immigrant community and rightfully so. Many legal residents who have valid green cards, or Permanent Residency Cards, or valid work and student visas are hesitant about traveling overseas, even though they are not even from the seven countries that Donald Trump’s executive order of Jan. 27, 2017, tried to keep out. And undocumented migrants are terrified.

So here’s what you should know and do as an immigrant in Trump’s America right now:

The Trump executive ban

As of Feb. 5, 2017, the date this column was written, the Trump administration’s travel ban slapped on green card holders, visa holders, dual citizens and refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended by a federal court. No one affected by the Jan. 27 immigration executive order should be prevented from traveling because of the ban.

However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Chicago Chapter; the National Immigrant Justice Center; and attorneys of the law firms Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. and Michael R. Jarecki, LLC are advising immigrants returning to the U.S. or traveling here to know their rights.

They advise legal permanent residents (green card holders) of the seven countries listed above to be prepared for lengthy questioning and inspection upon return to the U.S. Your phones, emails, social media pages, etc. may be searched for information by Customs and Immigration agents who are looking to see if you are against the United States. Expect it to take several hours from when you land to when you leave the airport, the attorneys warn.

Be wary of certain immigration officers at some U.S. airports who might try to force you as a legal permanent resident to sign Form I-407. Do not sign this form, warn the attorneys, because it could mean voluntarily giving up your legal permanent residency status.

If you are traveling to the U.S. with a visitor’s visa and are from one of the seven countries, or you are a dual citizen, send a copy of the personal data page of your passport and your visa stamp or entry documents to a family member who will wait for you at the airport, so they can provide this information to an immigration attorney if you have problems at the airport. Some customs agents are still trying to deny entry to visa holders, despite the judge’s national order.

If you are in the United States but are a citizen of one of the affected countries and you must travel outside the U.S., consult an immigration lawyer before doing so and make sure you also travel with the lawyer’s contact information in case you run into problems.

If you have been living in the U.S. longer than four years and nine months as a permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship. Do so without delay.

If you are stopped by immigration at the airport and you are afraid to return to your country for any reason, tell the immigration officer you want asylum. This request is your right and the executive order does not limit this right. Please know, however, that if you request asylum, you may be detained until you have passed an interview regarding your fear of return to your country. The interview may take days or weeks.