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Criminal Justice

Myths & Misconceptions about our Criminal Justice System

Being pulled over, searched, or questioned by the police can be a scary or intimidating encounter. Are you knowledgeable about your rights during these situations?

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about the U.S. criminal justice system!

Q: Not responding to the police is the obvious way to let police know you are remaining silent.

A: FALSE. (When enacting your “right to remain silent” you must inform the officer that you are exercising your right.)

Q: Undercover police officers must inform you if they are cops or not.

A: FALSE. (Law enforcement officers are not required by law to reveal that they are indeed undercover officers.)

Q:Video and audio footage of violent or unjust police is enough to change how law enforcement protects and serves.

A: FALSE.(It is not enough. Change and policy reform requires voting and electing our judges and officials in charge with our safety. We must be engaged and have an active voice in our communities and educate ourselves to challenge the powers that govern us.)

Know Your Rights: During Police Encounters

Understanding your rights while encountering police is key to defending yourself against unjust treatment and police brutality. Regardless of the situation, you are entitled to rights and protection under the law, which include:


●    You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.

●    You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.

●    If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.

●    You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.

●    Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

Click this link to access a printable ACLU Bust Card:

Know Your Rights: As a Returning Citizen

According to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, a felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by one or more years of prison. The law can be confusing but understanding the rights returning citizens do and do not have is important to know and defend!

Rights of formerly incarcerated citizens varies by state. In Michigan returning citizens have:

●    The Right to Vote: Incarcerated citizens do not have the right to vote while incarcerated, however, the right to vote is restored once they return home.

●    The Right to Bear Arms: The right to own firearms is lost while incarcerated. But formerly incarcerated citizens may legal appeal to restore their right after 3 to 5 years, depending on the terms of the sentence.

●    The Right to Serve on a Jury: In Michigan there is an ongoing debate on whether or not formerly incarcerated citizens are allowed to sit on a jury after returning home. Returning citizens do have the right to serve on a jury, however, that right can be challenged in some cases.

For more information about the rights of returning citizens in Michigan, visit the link below:


Why Immigration Rights Matter

Historically, Americans have harbored an ideology of “otherness” towards immigrants which has resulted in discriminatory practices and exclusionary policies. Today, implicit and explicit biases compounded with the rhetoric of the current administration exacerbate injustices towards immigrants. All persons within the U.S. have rights. It’s critical that these rights are known to increase the capacity of those whose rights are being violated and to increase activism against injustices towards immigrants.

Educational Resources

Here are some fast facts on rights and resources available:

1) National Immigration Law Center

Everyone has basic rightsunder the U.S. Constitution, including undocumented citizens.

Always carry with you any/all forms of documentation denoting legal immigration status(i.e. work permit, green card, visa), but do not

carry foreign documents (i.e. papers from a country outside of the U.S.) as they have the potential to be used against you if involved in the deportation process.

There are resources available to see who has been taken into immigration custody (Online Detainee Locator System) *Important: both you and your family should know your “A” number* and to get information on a case status (Enforcement & Removal Operations Field Offices) in the event of a raid, arrest or detention.

2) Catholic Legal Immigration Network

Know Your Rights cards are available for free through this resource which can be given to law enforcement officials in the event of a stop, arrest, or detention.

Emergency Planning guidesare available for free through this resource and should be utilized in the event that you or a loved one has been detained or involved in the deportation process.

A Workplace Checklistis available for free through this resource to better understand what law enforcement officers need in order to enter the workplace, and what can be done to protect yourself in the event of a raid.

3) American Civil Liberties Union

You have the right to remain silent,which should be stated directly before you exercise that right.

You do not have to consent to a search of your car,but cooperate if police choose to search under the pretense of having reasonable discretion to investigate, such as believing there is evidence of a crime.

You do not have to consent to a search of your homeunless the officer(s) present a proper permit (Unsure of how to know a proper permit when you see one? More information on which can be found in the National Immigration Law Center website)

This site includes further useful information on not only your rights, but also your responsibilities during police interactions. Clink on the title aboveto build an arsenal of knowledge on your rights, liberties and protections against unjust police practices.

4)  Migration Policy Institute

Free downloadable short guide on reliable and relevant immigration data.

Programs to Know

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

DACA is a program enacted through executive order under the Obama administration which provides temporary rights to immigrant youth whose parents immigrated illegally, such as protection from deportation and the ability to work or study within the U.S., if individuals meet specified requirements.

Here’s what you need to know now:


UPDATE In light of the new Trump Administration, here’s what you need to know about DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA):

●    Initial DACA Applicants- No new initial applications are being accepted at this time.
●    Renewal DACA Applicants - For those who need a DACA renewal (as in their DACA is expiring before March 6, 2018), we continue support in the application process and fees while funding lasts. All renewal applications are due to USCIS no later than October 5, 2017.



Feeling concerned about the DACA decision? Here’s what you can do about it.

●    Revised 2017 Dream Act:The Dream Act of 2017 is a bipartisan bill proposing pathways to citizenship for vulnerable immigrant populations (undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, those who have TPS, high school graduates, and members of the labor force or military) as a response to the current administration’s changes to the DACA program.

●    Learn More

○    Video on the potential impacts of proposed changes to DACA and Dreamers: Hanging in the Balance: The Future of DACA and the Dreamers
○    Migration Policy Institute:

Maps of Immigrants in the United States

Information from the Administration

Stay up-to-date on relevant policy changes, updates, and news releases through the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services News Releases

The Pathway to Citizenship (for Green Card Holders)

Green cards are the primary means to become a naturalized citizen in the United States. After living in the United States and holding a green card for a sufficient time period(3-5) years depending on whether you are married to a US citizen or not you become eligible to apply for naturalization. To see if you are eligible follow this link from Immigration Direct.

If you are eligible to apply for naturalization(the process of becoming a citizen) you simply have to take a test of your civics knowledge and of your English knowledge. The civics test requirement and the English competency requirement are actually broken down into 4 sub-tests. There is a civics test where you will be asked ten questions and have to get 6 right to pass (These ten questions are drawn from a total pool of one hundred questions which you can find at the attached link from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). There is also a writing test where you have to correctly write one out of three sentences to pass. There is a reading test where you must correctly read one of three sentences aloud to pass. Finally, there is a speaking test.



Green Card.png

Green cards are given out for multiple reasons, but the most common are for work, for family members of citizens, and by marriage. An interim step which is often common is for immigrants to get a student visa to immigrate to the United States and later getting an employment green card. If you are interested in helping someone in your family not yet in the country pursue a green card, here is a great resource about different types of green cards from US Immigration. Arguably, our ability to sponsor green card applicants is one of the most important and least asserted of our citizenship rights and responsibilities.



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