(CNN)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's protest faced a choice: to join the protests and jeopardize their legal status as immigrants or sit it out and save their future in the country.
In the Black Lives Matter movement, immigrants find themselves in a tough position
Jennifer Scheurle, a German immigrant living in Bellevue on a work visa, says she has always been a politically engaged person, especially 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.
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. "They could be asked to disclose the arrest in an application for a visa or at a green card interview in the US for any immigration benefits."
Immigrants like Scheurle are largely aware of how these situations could weigh heavily on their immigration status, which could curb their level of participation and their method of expressing their political opinion.
"This is a dilemma that immigrants are facing right now," says Andrea Flores, the deputy director of immigration policy for the ACLU. "So many immigrants want to participate, but the risk is always there. It's important to protest and it's important to stay safe. But the decision is unfair to people who don't have enough protections due to their immigration status."
"Given the uncertainty that the Trump administration has placed on several visa categories, it's understandable that there is anxiety around participating in protests," she adds.
Several immigrants discussed their concerns with CNN but declined to even go on the record for the fear of consequences.
However, not all immigrants are choosing to sit it out.
Prerna Gupta, an Indian national on a work visa, has been going to protests in her neighborhood in Brooklyn.
"Nothing is wrong with marching with people. We're not breaking any law," she said, adding that the violent protests in