“Should I Go Out and Protest?” A Difficult Choice for Immigrants

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A recent article on CNN.com* comments on the choices immigrants here on US visas must make if they want to support and participate in the Black Lives Matters protests. Almost always, there is the risk of being detained or arrested, particularly if the protests turn violent.

Legally, foreign nationals are allowed to participate in peaceful demonstrations and protests, and if they are arrested they have the same constitutional protections that American citizens have. However an arrest could potentially have serious immigration consequences, even if the charges are dropped. Parisa Karaahmet, an attorney at Fragomen, an immigration law firm, explains why: "They could be asked to disclose the arrest in an application for a visa or at a green card interview in the US for any immigration benefits."

So, immigrants who support the BLM movement have had to make a choice: Go out in the street to protest and jeopardize their legal status as immigrants or stay on the sidelines and not risk their future in the country.

Jennifer Scheurle, for example, is a German immigrant who is here on a work visa. She was inspired by the Black Lives Movement, but once the protests became violent, she had to reconcile this with the realities of the status of her visa. She shares that after speaking with her family and her partner about it, “We came to a conclusion that it would be detrimental to my personal well-being and my effectiveness here in the US, if I go back to Germany.”

She is no longer going out to protest, but has decided to support it on the side in other practical ways.

Attorney Manuel Solis agrees. He comments, “Of course, wanting to support the protests against injustice and racial inequality is a good thing. But my suggestion to immigrants is to not go out in person and protest on the streets, as these can suddenly turn violent at any moment. So first, there’s the risk of getting hurt, and second, if you do get arrested, as was already mentioned, it can potentially hurt your status here, risking your visa or the possibility of getting a green card. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support the movement. A great way is by donating money to organizations that are involved in these protests and are pushing for important changes and reforms.”

Below are a few suggested links, however, there are many other options. Just make sure the site you are donating to is legitimate.

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

ACLU – Criminal Law Police Reform https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police

This article mentions a number of organizations that can also use your donation. https://www.thecut.com/article/george-floyd-protests-how-to-help-where-to-donate.html

*https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/14/us/black-lives-matter-immigrants-visa-status-protest-trnd/index.html

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