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BIA Strikes Down Miranda-Like Warnings For Immigrants

Jose, a lawful permanent resident, crosses the border into Mexico to retrieve his nephew, a citizen of Guatemala. Jose attempts to bring his nephew into the United States by using his son’s birth certificate for entry. Jose’s son is a U.S. citizen by birth. Jose is stopped at the border and interrogated by Customs agents. During this interrogation, Jose admits to using his son’s birth certificate to bring his nephew across the border. Jose is then issued a Notice to Appear before an Immigration Judge for a removal hearing. During the hearing, Jose moves to suppress his admission because the Customs agent failed to advise Jose that he had a right to hire a lawyer and that any statement that he made would be used against him in the removal proceedings. Is Jose right?

If Jose were charged with a criminal offense, his statements would be suppressed because the Customs agent violated his Miranda Rights. That is, Jose has a right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present prior to and during any questioning, and the right to have an attorney appointed to him at no cost, if he can’t afford an attorney.

However, Jose was not charged with a crime. He was charged with being removable from the United States for violating the immigration laws. According to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Matter of E-R-M-F & A-S-M, 25 I&N Dec. 580 (BIA 2011), Jose was not entitled to any warnings until he was “placed in formal proceedings.” In other words, until the Notice To Appear was filed with the Immigration Court, which would be long after he was questioned, he is not entitled to be told that he has the right to an attorney being present, at his own cost, before any questioning.

So what have we learned from this case? It is important to get the word out to immigrants everywhere (lawful permanent residents, nonimmigrant visa holders, unlawful presence aliens) that you have the right to hire an attorney and that any statement that you make will be used against you in the removal/deportation proceedings. Because the Government will not tell you.