Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, the media have reported incidents of the FBI, Immigration Services, and other law enforcement authorities questioning and detaining non-citizens. In light of this development, some international visitors have expressed concern about their rights and what to do if they find themselves in such a situation. This handout is designed, not to alarm you, but to provide basic information and identify resources to assist you.
International students and scholars on non-immigrant visas are subject to the same laws as U.S. citizens except those pertaining to immigration, voting rights and citizenship. American laws also protect you, but you need to understand your rights and legal options in order to obtain the full benefit of the law. If you do find yourself in a situation where you encounter law enforcement authorities, you may need to assert your rights.
International visitors often worry that they will be deported should they come into conflict with the law. In general, you will not be deported for a single misdemeanor or other minor offense, e.g., disturbing the peace or drunkenness. But if a foreign citizen is convicted of a crime that is a felony or involves "moral turpitude" for which they are then sentenced to one year or more in confinement, deportation is a real possibility. Charges relating to drug (narcotic drugs or marijuana) possession, addiction, and sale fall into this category.
For students, you cannot be deported for violating rules of the university. However, if you violate university rules and are disciplined with a suspension or dismissal from the university, your immigration status changes. You are no longer a student and have not maintained your immigration status. In such cases, you can be deported for not being a student. 


  • For students, maintain your student status by enrolling in a full-time course of study.
  • Keep your passport valid. Contact your embassy several months before the expiration date on your passport to start the proceedings to renew it.
  • Keep the I-94 card with your passport . The I-94 card is the document that permits you to be in the United States. If you somehow lose the I-94 card, inform your international student adviser immediately to initiate procedures to replace it.
  • The law requires you to carry your original passport and I-94 card with you. Failure to produce these documents for law enforcement is grounds for being detained. (Realistically while you go about your daily activities, it is probably best to carry a photocopy of the I-94 card and the identification page of your passport and keep the originals in a safe place. If you travel away from the campus vicinity, then you should carry the originals with you.)
  • Carry the contact information of your nearest Consulate or Embassy with you.
  • Keep in contact with the Office of International Students and Scholars in order to be informed of any changes in the laws and regulations that pertain to non-immigrants.

Remember you may need to assert these rights.

  • If you are arrested in the U.S., you have the right to call your consulate or to have the police inform your consulate of your arrest. The police must allow your consul to visit or speak with you. Your consul might assist you in finding a lawyer or offer other help, such as contacting your family. (You also have the right to refuse help from your consulate.)
  • You are entitled to have a lawyer to defend you in court or an interview with the Immigration Services. Just like a U.S. citizen, you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions if you are accused of a violation of the law. You cannot be forced to confess or to give evidence against yourself. If you are arrested or detained for any reason, you do not need to make any statement, answer any questions, or sign any documents without speaking to your lawyer. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that every person has the right to remain silent in the face of questions posed by any police officer or government agent.
  • You have the right to request release from detention by paying a bond if necessary. Your lawyer can assist you with this. However, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration amended custody procedures to allow non-citizens to be detained without charges or bond for indefinite periods "in the event of emergency or other extraordinary circumstances." Before the September 11 attacks, immigration officials had 24 hours to document charges or release detainees on bond. Now they may hold detainees up to 48 hours under normal circumstances and an unspecified "additional reasonable period of time" during emergencies.

The following organizations are tracking hate crimes and also provide helpful resources:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
4201 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 244-2990
Adc@adc.org; http:// http://www.adc.org

American Muslim Alliance (AMA)

Asian American Legal Defense Education Fund (AALDEF)
99 Hudson Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 212 966-5932 12/01


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