As a newcomer to the United States, there is much to learn that will be different from what you were used to back home. As an immigrant, it is important for you to become familiar with the culture, not only for your benefit, but also for the benefit of the community as a whole. Below is information about several topics that may be of us to you in your daily life as well as help you to take steps to avoid problems with the law.
Topics on this page
- Conduct that Can Affect your Immigration Status
- Cultural Differences
- Driving a Car
- Immigration Assistance
- Public Libraries
- What you should do to help yourself and your Community
It is illegal to have an open alcohol container in public or to drive a car after drinking alcohol, depending on the amount of alcohol in your body. Driving a car after drinking can result in criminal charges. If you need help, call 1-800-662-4357
If you are arrested, you have the right to be silent and not answer any questions except to give your name and ask for your lawyer. If asked about your immigration status, you can give your name and ask for a lawyer.
You have the right to make a phone call to a relative or an attorney (memorize the phone number in case this ever happens).
If you are arrested and charged with a crime and the judge sets a bond amount, you may be released from jail while you wait for your criminal case to be completed by paying the bond amount. Be sure to understand fully the contract with a bond company and what you agree to pay if the bond is forfeited (lost).
- If you pay the amount yourself, it will be returned when the case is over.
- If you pay a bond company, only part of the amount will be returned. The bond company can charge a substantial fee.
If you are arrested by the police and do not have valid immigration status, paying bond might result in you being transferred to ICE custody. Consult an immigration lawyer before paying the bond in your criminal case. There may be no advantage to paying the bond if you will be immediately transferred to ICE custody.
All children living in the state of Maryland between the ages of 6 and 16 are required by law to attend school. They are eligible for free public schooling regardless of their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents. To register your child for school, call or contact the Board of Education in the county where you live. To find the information, go to www.msde.state.md.us. You can also write or call: Maryland State Department of Education, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201; 410-767‐0100.
The law in Maryland does not permit children under 8 years of age to be left alone in the home, car, a building or enclosure without appropriate supervision. A child also cannot be left alone without proper supervision by a reliable person at least 13 years old. These are punishable crimes
Be aware that what may have been acceptable methods of parental discipline in other countries could be considered child abuse in the United States. The law in Maryland does not permit parents to hit their children so hard that it leaves a bruise or mark. You could be charged with a crime for this.
If you know of a child who is being abused, you can help protect them. Abused children. Who are helpless, must rely on capable adults who are willing to help get them out of an abusive environment. You can get additional information about the Child Protective Services in Maryland.
Conduct that Can Affect Your Immigration Status
There are certain actions that are considered serious crimes in this country and may result in your deportation, even if you are a lawful permanent resident, have refugee/asylee status or other legal status. Some criminal offenses have serious immigration consequences for you, such as loss of green card, denial of naturalization, or deportation, such as:
- Domestic violence: if you hit, threaten or abuse your spouse, companion, or child, you can be found guilty of domestic violence. This could include hitting/ spanking your child.
- Using guns or weapons in any illegal manner.
- Use or possession of illegal drugs.
- Crimes that reflect poor character such as theft or fraud.
- Soliciting or providing sexual acts for money (solicitation/ prostitution).
- Stalking (following or seeking contact with someone who does not want that type of attention).
- Registering to vote in federal elections by individuals who are non-citizens or non-citizens who claim U.S. citizenship
In the United States, the law does not permit discrimination in the provision of public services. Treat everyone fairly and equally regardless of their gender, race, religion, or country of nationality. Making racially discriminatory or sexually suggestive comments or jokes, or touching someone inappropriately at work could result in job loss or worse.
Telling the truth is considered very important in American culture. Do not give false information or use false documents.
Bribing authorities is a crime. Many cultures consider it acceptable to pay money or gifts to a police officer or other government official so that the official will do a service. Paying a bribe to obtain a result is illegal in America.
It is unlawful in Maryland to solicit a prostitute. This includes asking for or paying any money for sexual acts.
Do not sign any contract or legal document unless you understand what it means. If you do not understand, ask questions until you know what will happen if you do not fulfill your part of the agreement and what you can do if the other person does not fulfill their part of the agreement.
Driving a Car
Everyone who drives a car in Maryland must have a valid driver’s license and every car need to have car insurance. It is possible to obtain a driver’s license by individuals who have no immigration status, though only certain offices of the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) can give licenses to non-citizens. For information on getting a driver’s license or changing your address: call the MVA at 410‐768-7000 or go to http://www.mva.maryland.gov
If you move, you must change the address on your driver’s license within 30 days of moving and if you have a non-Maryland drivers’ license, the law requires that you get a Maryland driver’s license within 30 days of moving to Maryland.
Never drive after drinking alcohol or using drugs. The consequences cost far more money than a taxi (job loss, attorney's fees, suspended license).
Call 911 when:
- There is a fire
- You need police protection (because you or someone else is in danger or being threatened by someone or injured in an accident)
- You need an ambulance
Call 1-800-222-1222 if You or your child have ingested a poison or inhaled vapors that are making you sick or dizzy.
Call 311: For non-emergency help, if you need police assistance for a traffic accident, or to report a problem
If you are hungry or have an emergency need, there may be agencies where you can get what you need for free. Call: “First Call for Help” at 410-685-0525 for assistance.
Everyone, regardless of immigration status must be paid the minimum wage of $10.10 per hour as of 7/1/18; higher in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. If your employer is not paying you a fair wage, you can contact the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Room 207, 103 South Gay Street, Baltimore, MD 21202-4061 or call 866-487-9243. (Baltimore District Office 2 Hopkins Plaza, Room 601, Baltimore, MD 21201
No one should force you to work against your will. If anyone is forcing you to work against your will, because of threats or abuse, you can get help. The laws in the U.S. will not allow any person to abuse you, no matter what the abuser tells you. Do not believe their threats. Even if you do not have legal immigration status, the police can protect you
There are non-profit agencies that provide immigration services for free or at low cost if you qualify for their assistance. You can ask your local immigration office for a list of these organizations. Before sending any application to Immigration, consult with a competent attorney or accredited representative experienced in immigration matters to ensure you are eligible to proceed.
It is illegal, for anyone who is not an attorney or an accredited representative, to charge money for legal advice or assistance with immigration applications. Immigration law is complex and incorrect advice can have serious consequences. Be aware that Notary Publics are individuals authorized only to verify the identification of the person signing a document. A Notary Public IS NOT a lawyer and cannot do any legal work unless they also have a law degree. If you are not sure, ask if the person helping you is an attorney and if they have a law degree from the United State. They must sign the application if they fill it out.
Free legal assistance may be available to help you get your money back if you have paid for unauthorized immigration work. Maryland law permits an attorney to get his fee paid through the court. Read the law: Md. Code, Commercial Law §14-3301 – §14-3306
When you move, if you are lawful permanent resident, have some other status or have an application pending with immigration, you are required to tell Immigration (DHS) your new address. You must send form AR-11 to immigration and you should also notify any immigration office that has your documents. It is NOT enough to inform the post office because they will not forward your mail after 6 months.
Keep a complete copy of every document that you send to immigration and keep a record of when and where it is sent.
There are many local public libraries where you can borrow books, movies and music for free. You can also go there to read newspapers and magazines. In some libraries, you can access computers and the Internet for free or a small fee. To borrow these items, you need a library card, which you can get by filling out an application and presenting identification.
Usually the borrowed items must be returned in three weeks or you will have to pay penalty fines before being allowed to borrow more items.
What you should do to help yourself and your Community
Try to learn English. There may be free or low-cost classes in your community. For information, contact your local community college or the Resource Center for Language and Culture Department of Education, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Sherman Hall, West Wing Room 102, Baltimore, MD21250, 410-455-3694 or www.umbc.edu/rclc.
Participate in your children’s school. Let their teachers know you are interested in their education.
Pay taxes if you are employed. Remember that the government uses taxes to provide services for everyone. Everyone is obligated to report their income and pay taxes. You can obtain a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to pay your taxes. For additional information, call the IRS 1-800-829-1040 or visit www.irs.gov.
Every male living in the United States who is between 18 and 26 years of age must register with Selective Service, regardless of immigration status. For more information, go to www.sss.gov