After the first wave of nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death turned violent, immigrants on US visas who support the Black Lives Matter movement faced a choice: to join the protests and jeopardize their legal status or sit it out to safeguard their future.
Jennifer Scheurle, a German immigrant living in Bellevue on a work visa, says she has always been politically engaged, having participated in Berlin’s strong protest culture prior to arriving in the United States.
The Black Lives Matter movement inspired her, but when things turned violent, she was forced to reconcile that with the realities of her visa status.
“I talked to my family and my partner about whether or not it’s worth it for me to protest in person and risk the visa. We came to a conclusion that it would be detrimental to my personal well-being and my effectiveness here in the US, if I go back to Germany,” she said.
Why are immigrants worried?
A foreign national in the US is allowed to participate in peaceful demonstrations or rallies and if they get arrested, the US criminal justice system ensures that they are entitled to the same constitutional protections as a US citizen.
However, the immigration consequences of the arrest may be quite significant.
If they get detained, arrested or charged, it could be problematic, even if the charges were dropped, according to Parisa Karaahmet, an immigration attorney at Fragomen, an immigration law firm.
Immigrants like Scheurle are often aware of how these situations might impact their immigration status, which could curb their level of participation and method of expressing their political opinion.
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