If you came to live in Kentucky as an immigrant from another country of origin, you may have overcome numerous challenges as you adapted to life in the United States. Each person’s journey is unique, and what poses a challenge for one person may not be problematic for another. For instance, perhaps you were fluent in English by the time you crossed a U.S. border; some immigrants struggle with significant language barriers for quite some time.

As you began to build your new life in this state, certain issues may have caused you to worry. Perhaps you stressed over a new job or were anxious when your children spent their first days in a U.S. elementary or high school. Another concern many people in similar situations have is worrying that they or a spouse or other family member will face immigration detention, especially if a police officer arrests someone and hands him or her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Understand legal protocol 

A Kentucky police officer simply can’t arrest you for no reason, lock you up in jail then hand you over to ICE. There are regulations that govern police behavior and also rules regarding criminal law as it intersects with U.S. immigration law. The following facts can help you protect your rights:

  • Police must have reasonable cause to make a traffic stop and probable cause to arrest you.
  • If a police officer arrests you, authorities can’t lock you up and “throw away the key.” In fact, they must release you within 48 hours if there are no criminal charges against you.
  • Facing charges doesn’t necessarily mean they can keep you behind bars either. If prosecutors drop the charges or if the court grants bail and you are able to post it, officers must release you from jail.
  • If you have been in jail for 48 hours and meet the criteria for release but they are still holding you, it may be because ICE has placed a detainer on you.
  • If there is an ICE detainer, officials may hold you only 48 hours more. If by then, a transfer to ICE custody has not occurred, they must release you.
  • To avoid problems, it is always a good idea to keep information regarding your current legal status to yourself. You do not have to provide such information to police.
  • If they transfer you to ICE custody, they will assign a deportation officer to your case. It is critical that you remember the officer’s name and contact information.
  • If you do not receive a Notice to Appear within 72 hours after your detainment, you may request one. It is an important document that can be helpful if you reach out for legal support.

While your immigration case is pending, authorities may move you to a military base, a jail or an immigration detention facility. Such situations are often highly stressful and frightening, especially if you do not know your rights or how to protect them. Many Kentucky immigrants memorize the telephone number of an experienced immigration law attorney or other immigrant advocate so they can quickly access support if a criminal law or legal status problem arises.