The United States (U.S.) stands as proof of the power of immigration. Throughout America’s history, immigrants have improved its workforce and economy, injecting new ideas and cultural norms as they assimilated into the population. Immigrants raise America up, strengthening communities and providing countless benefits in our modern world. Despite this, stark opponents of immigration exist. Unfortunately, many of these opponents are currently in places of immense power, like President Donald Trump.
Throughout 2018, the president demonstrated an intense and xenophobic dislike of immigration. His administration separated families at the border, attempted to prevent vulnerable migrants from seeking asylum, and attacked beneficial programs like DACA and Temporary Protected Status. Additionally, Trump officials like former Attorney General Sessions implemented new rules that limited judges’ ability to award asylum, leading to a rise in asylum denials.
Further, immigrant communities across America experienced increased scrutiny from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Even the simple thought of encountering an ICE agent can cause fear in many people. Fear in such a situation is understandable – in certain instances, ICE agents can legally tear people away from their families. But you don’t have to live in fear – prepare yourself by understanding ICE and your rights. That way, if ICE appears at your door, you’ll know what to do.
This article will provide an overview of your rights when encountering ICE both at your home and in the workplace. If you have any questions, the best guidance can be provided by an expert immigration attorney.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known by its popular acronym ICE, functions under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003, ICE’s main role is to “identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety.” Additionally, ICE specifically targets those who have entered the U.S. illegally and now live and work as undocumented immigrants.
ICE operates throughout the country via its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices. You can see every ERO field office operated by ICE on this map. There is one ICE-ERO office in Florida, located in Miami. Every field office is responsible for a certain territory, which sometimes crosses state lines. For example, the ICE-ERO office in Boston manages enforcement operations for the entirety of New England, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The state with the highest concentration of ERO field offices is Texas. The Lone Star State has four locations in Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio that split the state’s territory into quadrants.
ERO field offices conduct all enforcement activities, including the identification, investigation, and arrest of undocumented immigrants. Additionally, agents from ERO offices also participate in raids, forcible removal, and detention activities. You can find specific contact information for each ICE-ERO office on the department’s website.
Who Does ICE Target?
ICE investigates and arrests two specific types of U.S. immigrants. The first are those legal immigrants convicted and/or accused of committing a crime. Second are those people present in the U.S. with no known status. These could be migrants who crossed the U.S border illegally or legal immigrants who overstayed an expired visa. Considering American laws, the above immigrants are all eligible for deportation, formally known as “removal.” This does not mean that everyone arrested and considered for deportation will be removed. In fact, there are certain ways to stop deportation, including adjustment of status and asylum.
Through its field offices, ICE initiates hundreds of thousands of raids and arrests each year. In fact, ICE conducted 143,470 administrative arrests in fiscal year (FY) 2017. Further, during the same time period, ICE assisted in the removal of 226,119 foreign nationals from U.S. territory. Of these deportations, 36% (81,603) were originally arrested by ICE agents. To read more about ICE’s FY 2017 activity, data, and statistics, you can read its annual report here. Unfortunately, these facts and figures mean that if ICE arrives at your door with an arrest warrant, you face a high likelihood of removal. These odds become even higher if you (a) don’t understand your rights and/or (b) don’t have an experienced deportation defense attorney.
Encountering ICE – What Should You Do & What Are Your Rights?
Each year, thousands of immigrants deal with the dreadful reality of ICE searches and raids. Unfortunately, current political leadership supports increased ICE enforcement, meaning that such actions are likely to continue in higher numbers. The best defense is preparation – know your rights in every situation, create an action plan, and talk with a skilled immigration attorney in your area.
Below, we discuss some basic yet essential ways protect yourself during interactions with government agents, including ICE officers.
When you remain calm, you increase the likelihood of a successful outcome during any search or arrest. Unfortunately, this can be incredibly difficult during such an emotional experience, but it’s essential. Stay calm and be courteous and respectful to any agents who talk to you.
Ask For Identification
You have a right to ask any government official or agent for their identification. When asked, they should be able to provide you with their identification, including their specific department or agency. In immigrant enforcement, you’ll most likely hear that the agents are from either Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Most importantly, always remember that your rights are the same no matter the agency or organization.
Request To See A Warrant
If ICE agents arrive at your home, you have a right to ask them for evidence of a court-ordered warrant before acquiescing to search. While ICE agents can issue arrest warrants, they cannot issue search warrants. This important distinction can provide protection if ICE simply arrives at your home with the intent to conduct a search. A proper search warrant will always be issued by a judge and will have correct identifying information present. You can see an example of a valid search warrant on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
You have a right to see and verify any search warrants before granting ICE access to your home. If you are inside, keep your door closed and ask the agent(s) to slip the warrant under your door. If agents arrive while you are outside of your home, you do not have to invite them inside. Verify all warrants and information before granting access.
In addition to the above information, you should know that:
- ICE agents can issue arrest warrants. These are different from search warrants. If ICE agents arrive at your home or place of work with a warrant for your arrest, verify the information included on the warrant. And if valid, do not resist apprehension and request a lawyer.
- If ICE agents arrive at your home with a valid arrest warrant but lack a search warrant, you do not need to grant them access to your home. Protect anyone else at your residence by going outside and closing your door. This prevents ICE from legally accessing the home.
- You do not need to open the door when initially talking to ICE agents. You have a right to verify all warrants and information before allowing agents into your home. If possible, ask the agent(s) to slip their warrant(s) and identification under your door.
- Finally, if ICE agents arrive at your home with a valid search warrant, you must allow search of the premises under penalty of law. While ICE agents may legally search, you do not have to answer any questions or sign any paperwork. If possible, immediately call your attorney.
Even if ICE agents are legally arresting you and/or searching your home or workplace, you always have a right to remain silent. Additionally, protect yourself by refusing to sign any paperwork presented by agents. Simply state that you are practicing your right to remain silent and request the presence of an immigration lawyer.
When you invoke your right to remain silent, you:
- Protect yourself from self-incrimination;
- Should not sign any paperwork provided by ICE;
- Do not need to respond to any questioning by agents; and
- Need to contact an expert immigration attorney immediately.
Your Right To An Attorney
No matter your situation, you always have the right to ask for appropriate legal representation (one exception is expedited removal, which is not conducted via the court system and is not discussed here). Unfortunately, while the government will provide legal counsel for all citizens no matter their financial situation, this is not the same for immigrants. While you will always have the right to attorney representation, you must acquire and pay for your legal counsel on your own. If you cannot afford such representation, there are many non-profit legal defense services across America.
The best way to protect yourself and your family? Keep a list of qualified and reputable immigration attorneys in your area. Everyone in your family should know where to access this information, just in case.
Remember – You Always Have Rights
During any interaction with government law enforcement, including ICE, remember that you always have certain rights and protections. These hold true no matter your immigration or visa status, citizenship, or nationality. Most importantly, every immigrant should know their rights in a variety of situations. In this article, we described how to protect yourself from unfair search or seizure at home and work.
In conclusion, you’ll want to know your rights in a variety of situations, including if ICE arrives at your home or job. Remember, you can:
- Ask any agent(s) for their identification;
- Request proof of a warrant before opening your door;
- Practice your right to remain silent; and
- Request an attorney to help.
It is also highly important to never resist arrest or search. Even if ICE agents force their way into your home, resistance will only put you and your family in greater danger. Additionally, resisting arrest may harm your case later, should you face removal proceedings. In such instances, your best defense is to invoke your right to remain silent and request the immediate presence of a lawyer.
Work With A Miami Immigration Attorney
Many people worry often about encountering law enforcement, including ICE officers. For those who are undocumented, this fear can interfere with daily life. ICE raids and detention can both tear families apart and cause psychological, emotional, and even physical harm. The best way to alleviate worries or fears regarding ICE is to create a plan and understand your rights. Consider every avenue and option with a qualified and compassionate immigration attorney.
An immigration attorney will be a crucial ally in any situation involving court proceedings, detention, and deportation. When your right to live and work in America is in jeopardy, proper legal counsel is critical. An expert immigration lawyer will protect your rights, provide essential advice and guidance, and ensure you receive fair consideration. Davis & Associates is committed to providing excellent legal services to immigrants in Miami. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.