Entering the U.S. and your civil rights

Law enforcement officers cannot stop, detain, search or remove anyone based solely on your political beliefs, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race or religion. At the border and at all airports, though, law enforcement has the right to search any and all bags, and ask questions about your travel itinerary and citizenship.

Lawful permanent citizens and non-U.S. citizens may be questioned about their immigration status, although if you have a valid passport and are a U.S. citizen, you do not have to answer those questions. Failing to answer those questions could result in a longer delay.

If you have a locked cellphone or a password on your laptop, an officer may ask for you to unlock the device. While U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry for refusing to provide a password, you could be delayed or questioned at length. An officer’s authority to copy or search files in an electronic device without having reasonable suspicion of a crime is an issue that is currently contested.

If your bags have passed through the metal detectors and a security officer sees that there is no weapon inside, the officer can search your bags at greater length. However, a screener is not allowed to choose which bags he or she will search based on your race, ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or political beliefs.

At Ozment Law, PLC, we understand that you may feel your civil rights have been violated at some airports or other points of entry into the U.S. We will work diligently to represent you and ensure your rights when entering this country are not violated. To learn more about how we can help, please visit our web pages on these and other topics.