Carrying Documents in the 100 Mile Border Zone and Beyond
A former client was recently riding on a bus through Rochester and was asked to produce his green card by Customs and Border Patrol. This isn’t surprising since Rochester is located within the “Government’s 100 Mile Border Zone.” The Border Zone, which is an area that is up to 100 miles from any external U.S. border, is an area that the Supreme Court has deemed a “reasonable distance” in which it is lawful to engage in border security operations, including warrantless searches. It allows for CBP to briefly detain travelers in order to ask them a brief question or two and possibly produce a document evidencing a right to be in the U.S.
Many immigrants, such as my former client, have legal status to be in the U.S. but fail to carry their documents. In his case, he was a refugee who had adjusted his status to legal permanent resident (LPR) several years ago but didn’t carry his green card in his wallet. Fortunately, he was only given a stiff warning about violating the law and was told he must carry his green card from that point on or be fined. Over the years, there have been numerous accounts of incidences where immigrants traveling in cities north of Ithaca (Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester) were stopped resulting in various outcomes ranging from receiving a warning or feeling intimidated to being detained for further questioning or even arrested. Given the era we are now living in where border security and anti-immigrant rhetoric seem to be part of the federal government’s discourse, it’s important more than ever for immigrants who travel through or anywhere near the border zone to be prepared to produce some ID regarding their admission into the U.S.
The law that the CBP agent was referring to when questioning my former client is very specific in stating every foreign national, age 18 or older, has to carry documentation of their immigration in the U.S. This pertains to ALL foreign nationals, age 18 or older. In other words, it doesn’t only pertain to those traveling in the 100 Mile Border Zone.
Since President Trump and his administration have serious intentions in shaking up the status quo when it comes to anything or anyone immigrant-related, it is advisable for foreign nationals who are in the U.S. to comply with the law in regards to carrying their documents. There are many variables since foreign nationals enter the U.S. on all types of Visas as immigrants and non immigrants but the bottom line is they need to prove they have been inspected at the border and their length of stay hasn’t expired. Here is some practical advice for those who are here as LPRs and those who are inspected and admitted but do not have LPR status.
- LPRs need to carry their actual green card. For those who have entered the country with an I-551 stamp on their passport and are waiting for their green cards to be produced, they need to carry their passport. For those who have expired green cards, Form I-90 needs to be filed with USCIS to get the card renewed, and once a receipt for filing is obtained, the local USCIS office can provide a sticker onto the expired card that shows the green card is valid for an additional year. For lost green cards, form I-90 can also be filed to replace the green card and once a receipt is received, a temporary ID can be made again at the local USCIS office.
- Foreign nationals inspected and admitted into the U.S. who do not have legal permanent residency also need to carry documentation regarding their immigration status. Immigrants enter the U.S. for a myriad of reasons including tourism, work, study, research, or seeking asylum. They also may enter as refugees or have been granted temporary protected status. Whatever the case may be, the documents made available upon arrival or after they have applied for some type of immigration benefit need to be carried since this is required by law. Examples of this would be carrying a copy of a valid, unexpired I-94 admission record, Form I-551, a valid, unexpired employment authorization document (work permit), or a foreign passport showing a valid CBP admission stamp.
One more thought about the 100 Mile Border Zone. Since becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen doesn’t provide immunity from being checked by CBP and being questioned about U.S. citizenry, it is advised that naturalized citizens also carry some form of proof of becoming U.S. citizens. The most convenient proof would be a U.S. passport card.
Given the high cost to replace a stolen or lost green card, foreign passport, or work permit, it is understandable why people carry a photo copy in their wallet and keep their original safely stored at home. But it is the law, and not having the proper documentation available at all times can result in a misdemeanor with real consequences.