The recent Department of Justice investigation into the Alamance County Sheriff and his department has sparked a lot of questions about immigration.
News 2 spoke to NC Board Certified Immigration Law Specialist Jeremy McKinney Wednesday afternoon to answer some basic questions about how immigration works in the USA and in North Carolina.
"The Constitution of the United States applies to everyone that is within the United States. So, that means that everyone in the United States has the right to due process of law. In immigration context, that means they have the right to a hearing. They have a right to a lawyer, but not a free lawyer, McKinney said.
Even though those rights are there, McKinney says many people without documentation sign a paper when they get caught that essentially waives their right to that hearing. As a result, they get deported.
There's also some confusion out there about what the proper terminology is for people in this situation. You hear terms like "illegal alien," "undocumented," or even "criminal," tossed around.
As with most things, it's tough to find one word or phrase that's both accurate and not offensive.
"Some come with a valid visa, a valid passport, and for whatever reason, they over stay. That's not a criminal offense. What do you call that person? I don't know if you'd call that person an illegal alien because that implies they've broken some kind of criminal law which has not happened here. I typically will say that a person is undocumented, or simply say they are a non-citizen," McKinney said.
The government says "alien" is the correct term. It defines it as, "any person not a citizen or national of the united states."
McKinney says law enforcement officers are not allowed to simply approach someone and ask if they are in this country legally. But, if they commit a crime, that question is fair game.
If you do end up having a hearing, it will be in Charlotte. However, if you're in jail, that hearing gets held in the state of Georgia, instead.
McKinney said the thought of having a hearing in another state is enough to scare many people into simply signing a form that waives their rights and fast-tracks them on the path to deportation.
WFMY News 2