During the presidency of Donald Trump, immigration law has gotten a lot more confusing for immigrants and Americans alike. If you are entering the U.S. as an illegal or legal immigrant, green card holder, or even a U.S. citizens, it is advised that you learn your legal rights.
In the wake of Trump’s travel ban, zero-tolerance policy and the most recent executive order on family separation at the border, many things could go wrong when trying to cross the U.S. border. We invited our Salt Lake City family immigration attorney from the Familia America Immigration law firm to explain certain aspects of immigration law in Utah.
In the modern world, we rely on your phones, laptops and other electronic devices more than ever before, so it makes sense that immigration officers and Customs and Border Protection officers may detain you at airport or other border checkpoints and search your phone. But is it even legal to do so without a warrant?
Can my laptop or phone be searched at the border?
Yes, your laptop, phone, or other electronic devices could be searched at the border when entering the U.S. even if you are a U.S. citizen or green card holder. In most cases, CBP officers have a legal right to search your devices if:
- Your travel documents are incomplete
- Your name matches a person of interest
- Random search
Can they request access to my social media or emails?
“You might have heard stories of people, both Americans and immigrants, handing over passwords to their social media accounts or emails at the border,” says our experienced family immigration attorney in Salt Lake City. “And while this happens rarely, this practice is not always prohibited by law.”
In fact, border agents may ask for access to your social media profiles or email even if you are a U.S. citizen. Whether or not this practice is legal depends on the circumstances of your particular case, but in most cases, such requests are voluntary.
Can data on my phone or laptop be accessed or copied?
Unfortunately, yes. There is very little you can do about border agents swiping through your phone or looking through data on your laptop when entering the U.S. These instances are rare, and happen only when you are being suspected of criminal wrongdoing. The government argues that this practice ensures safety, while human rights activists are trying to fight back. The scariest part is that border agents are allowed to copy the data on your phone or laptop.
What happens if you refuse to cooperate with border agents?
If border agents ask you to hand over your phone, laptop, or provide access to your electronic devices by telling them your passwords or PIN, it is generally advised to be cooperative as there are severe consequences for refusing to cooperate with border agents.
However, it is always advised to consult with a Salt Lake City family immigration attorney to find out whether or not your rights are being violated. If you are a foreign national and you refuse to cooperate, your entry can be denied by CBP officers.
If you are a green card holder and you are not being cooperative, your permanent resident status may be relinquished. However, you do have a right to a hearing and you cannot be forced to sign a form that would strip you of your permanent resident status at the border. You will most likely be sent back to your home country to wait for the hearing.
If you are a U.S. citizen, on the other hand, CBP agents cannot deny your entry to the U.S., but you will most likely have to go through hours of unpleasant inspections if you refuse to cooperate with border agents. In addition to that, all of your belongings will be searched and border agents may even seize your phone or laptop.
Border agents have a legal right to keep your phone or laptop for months for “further examination.” And do keep in mind that they can copy your data and access your email and social media profiles.
Have you been detained at the border and your phone or laptop has been searched? Do not hesitate to consult with our best immigration attorneys in Utah. Contact the Familia America Immigration law firm and get a free consultation today. Call at 801-656-9605 or complete this contact form. Se habla Espanol.