Exercising Free Speech Through Social Media and Assembly While Also Protecting Your Immigration Plans

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Davis Brown Law Firm

Living in a society plagued by racism and injustice, many people across the world have taken to social media and their communities, protesting to voice their opinions of violence and injustices being committed.

Although freedom of speech and assembly is granted to all in the United States Constitution, there are things non-citizens should be aware of as they advocate for a better society to protect themselves against unintended immigration consequences.

Social Media Use

Today, our lives and beliefs are on display for all to see, nearly everyone owns a smartphone and information is often shared through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. For those afforded the privilege of U.S. citizenship, clicking “post” or “share” will not impact their status as citizens. However, for non-citizens, pressing a button could potentially jeopardize their immigration plans.

Since March 31, 2019, the Department of State has requested additional information about the social media accounts of both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants, including the applicant’s username on numerous social medial platforms. It has become increasingly important for non-citizens to responsibly manage their social media presence.

So, what does “responsibly manage their social media presence” mean? Generally, just keep in mind that social media accounts may be reviewed by US government officials for visa applications or before granting immigration benefits.

For example, a non-citizen alluding to marijuana use in an Instagram post, even in a state in which marijuana is legal, could face inadmissibility issues, as previously discussed by my colleague, Elizabeth Van Arkel. This does not mean that non-citizens should refrain from using social media, as even the lack of social media presence may raise flags with immigration officers, but it is important to remember that social media content will be subject to review by immigration officers who hold immense discretion in adjudicating most visa applications.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your social media content poses immigration concerns, contact an immigration attorney.

Protesting

While the right to assemble is also protected by the Constitution, in the last week, protestors have still been subject to arrests. Whether or not the arrest is supported by evidence or the law, and regardless of whether an arrest results in a conviction, non-citizens can face severe immigration consequences. Non-citizens without any immigration status, meaning they are undocumented, could be placed in removal proceedings, potentially leading to deportation. Even for those with some type of immigration status, including lawful permanent residents, arrest and/or criminal charges can create serious immigration consequences.

If you are arrested while protesting and charged criminally, you should ask to speak to a criminal defense attorney and discuss your immigration status with them or ask that they contact an immigration attorney. If you are arrested, even if you are not charged, you should also speak to an immigration attorney. You are not required to discuss your immigration status with anyone other than your attorney.

At Davis Brown, we advocate for equity and denounce racism. We support and encourage the expression of free speech and the freedom of assembly rights afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We recognize and champion immigrants who advocate for the betterment of a county that has not yet accepted them as its own. And we want to help our clients achieve their immigration goals.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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