Powell Immigration Law PC | Business, Employment and Family Immigration Law | California

Attorney Blog

Important Information and Updates Concerning Immigration Law

Know Your Rights: Dealing with ICE

A Risk Worth Preparing For

President Trump has introduced somewhat of a chill into the hearts of many immigrants in the United States, delivered through a searing rhetoric charging that America is no home for any illegal resident, no matter his or her character. While, due to a number of factors, the current administration has actually deported fewer individuals than that under former President Obama (sometimes remarked as the "Deporter-in-Chief"), this threat nonetheless rings menacingly for many whom, by every definition save for on paper, have long called these United States their home. Indeed, these fears are not misplaced.

Immigrant Rights with ICE

"Felons, not families," President Obama had once stated in summarizing his platform on undocumented immigrants. President Trump, on the other hand, has sounded the trumpets much more broadly, notably declaring during his campaign that he would roundup and remove every one of the estimated 11 million residents living in the U.S. illegally.

While President Trump's sentiments were impossibly impractical to adhere to once he had assumed office, a much broader net has since been cast out. Targeting and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have become much less selective and much more random in just who may themselves a victim. As a result, stories have become mournfully pervasive in which families are torn apart and good people are needlessly displaced from the land they've learned to call their own.

This is why, if you are an immigrant vulnerable to such actions, it is essential that you know your rights and be prepared if you find ever yourself confronted by ICE or any threatening law enforcement. Everything could change in a day, and one should have every tool at his or her disposal if that day should ever come.

Everyone in the U.S. Has Rights

With ICE's grasp reaching into virtually every place one may find him or herself - be it at home, work or anywhere in a person's day-to-day life - it is crucial that all potentially vulnerable individuals have the correct knowledge and plans for how to most safely deal with such a confrontation.

It could prove extremely helpful that vulnerable immigrants carry around a "know-your-rights card" (shown below) explaining the individual's intent to exercise his or her rights if stopped by an immigration officer. If confronted, politely present this card to the officer, and remain silent until you may speak with an attorney.

Know-Your-Rights Card Provided by the  National Immigration Law Center

Know-Your-Rights Card Provided by the National Immigration Law Center

Furthermore, no matter where a vulnerable immigrant may find him or herself in such a situation, the following are basic rights one should never hesitate to take advantage of:

  • The right to remain silent.
    • You are not obligated to answer any questions ICE or law enforcement may press on you, and you should state aloud that you are exercising this right. You should never answer as to where you were born or how entrance to the U.S. was obtained, and you do not have to show any documents proving which country you are from. 
    • Never show any false documents and do not lie. It is best to simply remain silent.
  • The right to speak to a lawyer.
    • To exercise this right, simply state that you need to speak to your attorney. You may have one present during any questioning by ICE or law enforcement. 
    • You may exercise this right even if you do not have a lawyer. Tell the officers you wish to speak to one, and you may even ask for a list of pro bono legal representation.
    • You also have the right to contact your consulate, which may assist you in obtaining a lawyer. 
    • If you do have a lawyer and a signed Form G-28 demonstrating such representation, present it to the officer.
  • You should refuse to sign any documents before you have first consulted with legal counsel.
    • There are cases in which ICE will attempt to have suspected individuals sign away their right to see a lawyer or judge. If you do choose to sign anything, be absolutely positive you know what the document consists of before doing so.

Unfortunately, some ICE officers will lie in order to fool an undocumented immigrant into nullifying their rights. This further emphasizes for any individuals who may find themselves at risk the need to study and memorize these tools for their protection when engaging with immigration enforcement.

At Home

While basic rights apply anywhere an individual may find him or herself, there are special considerations to be aware of depending on the location. 

For instance, if an undocumented immigrant is confronted by ICE at his or her residence, it is incredibly important to be aware that the individual is not obligated to open the door unless the officers have a valid search warrant signed by a judge and filled out with the correct name and address. An ICE deportation warrant is not the same as a search warrant. Without a search warrant, no officer may enter without the resident's verbal permission.

If the officers explain that they do have a valid search warrant, ask them to slide it under the door or place it against the window so that its legitimacy may be verified. It is rarely the case that ICE has such a warrant. If you choose to speak to the officers in cases that they do not wield such documentation (remember your basic rights i.e. the right to remain silent), you may do so from inside with the door closed or step outside and shut the door behind you. However, it is recommended that you keep the door closed and remain inside. Otherwise, it is much more difficult to refrain from answering ICE's questions.

At Work

In cases when ICE agents appear at an undocumented individual's place of employment, it is again important to know what they may and may not legally coerce from those present. 

First, it is legally required that ICE or law enforcement must have a valid search warrant (signed by a judge with the correct names and address) or the permission of the employer to examine non-public areas. If these requirements are met and ICE is allowed to begin combing the premises, it is important that you be prepared to exercise your basic rights as described above.

It is also crucial that at-risk individuals stay calm and refrain from running away. If one of these afraid individuals do feel the need to escape, they should do so by calmly walking toward the exit. 

If ICE stops you, ask if you are free to leave. In the situation that they answer in the negative, it is advised that you engage in your right to remain silent. This also extends to such requested actions as to have the employees stand in groups according to immigration status. You should either simply remain where you are, or move to an area not designated for one of these groups so as not to admit any form of guilt. 

In Public

For individuals who are stopped and questioned by immigration officers in a public place, but not placed under arrest, it is necessary that they should be aware of their right to refuse a search. However, while officers may not search a person or his or her belongings without consent, officers may pat a suspect down if they claim to believe that the person may have a weapon.

Further Advice for How to Best Protect Yourself

Any steps a vulnerable immigrant takes in preparing for an encounter with ICE will prove invaluable should such an unfortunate circumstance ever become a reality. For many in this country, the event could be life-changing, so there is no precaution too minute to be worth consideration.

That is why it is strongly urged that such individuals come up with a sort of plan in case of this possible hardship, an outline of which may be as follows:

  • Ensure that important materials such as birth certificates and immigration documents are in a safe place where a friend or relative may access them if the situation demands it. 
  • Let your family know how to find you in the case that you find yourself detained by ICE and confirm that they have your Alien Registration Number (if you possess one). ICE's online detainee locator can be found here for adults over eighteen years of age, or they may call the local ICE office
  • Memorize the phone number of a friend, relative and/or attorney that you can call if arrested.
  • If you have children and/or dependents reliant on you, ensure that there is a plan for them to be taken care of in your absence.

It is also worth noting that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is open for calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at 240-314-1500 or 1-800-898-7180 for information on one's case status. 

Finally, there are a few more considerations that an immigrant should embrace in acknowledging the possibility of ICE raids or stops:

  • If you have any valid immigration documentation (such as a visa or work authorization), always have it on your person for identification purposes.
    • Do not carry foreign papers with you (such as a non-U.S. passport), as these will be utilized against you in any deportation process.
  • If you are confronted by an ICE officer and you fear that they will arrest you, alert them if you have children. If you are the parent or guardian of a U.S. citizen of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), it is possible that ICE officers may exercise discretion and allow you to go.
  • Be aware of the legal help in your area. Having a legal response prepared for such a scenario could prove to be extremely beneficial in avoiding the worst outcomes.

Immigrants Welcome

The current rhetoric and obstacles to immigrants cannot and will not last. The values and voices of those supporting these invaluable members of our nation will. 

Immigrants Welcome

The current rhetoric and obstacles to immigrants cannot and will not last. The values and voices of those supporting these invaluable members of our nation will.