Know Your Rights when Facing ICE

Know Your Rights When Facing ICE - Nanthaveth & Associates

The United States of America is a land of immigrants. For centuries, the US has stood as a beacon of hope for those wishing to build a better life away from heartache, famine, violence, and insecurity. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the job of securing the United States borders and enforcing the laws and regulations of the nation’s immigration system.

Yet, ICE has become a common household word because of past raids, and detainment of suspected undocumented foreign nationals. Unsurprisingly, the very thought of ICE can strike fear in the hearts of many, even those who have followed every legal requirement for immigration.

It is critical that you know your rights if you are questioned, confronted, or even detained by ICE officers, no matter what your immigration status is. Knowing your rights and consulting an expert immigration lawyer can make the difference between staying in the US and being returned to your country of origin.

Any search or arrest by ICE can have devastating effects on you and your family. So, know your rights in advance, just in case.

About Immigration and Customs Enforcement

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly referred to as ICE, functions under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

ICE has Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices across the country. Within Texas, there are five ERO field offices. These offices are located in Harlingen, El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Each field office has an assigned area of operation. ERO field offices conduct all “on the ground” activity, including efforts such as identification and arrest of suspected undocumented immigrants, raids, and forcible removal. Additional contact information for Texas-located ERO field offices can be found on ICE’s website.

ICE Raids

ICE targets two classes of immigrants for removal. First are foreign nationals who are in the United States illegally, whether they crossed the US border or overstayed an expired visa or green card. Second are those nationals present legally who have committed or are suspected of committing a crime. Both are legally qualified for removal based on US law. ICE relies on local and state law enforcement to aid in data collection.

ICE conducts hundreds of thousands of raids and removals per year via its field offices. The odds that you will be deported are higher if you do not know your rights as a person on US soil or if you do not have legal representation.

If you are concerned about ICE visiting your home or workplace, only an expert immigration attorney can provide the precise counsel you need. A lawyer at Nanthaveth & Associates can answer your questions and discuss available options to become legal in the United States during a free initial consultation. You need to know your rights in a variety of situations. An experienced lawyer will help you understand your rights and will represent you should ICE challenge them.

Your Guide for When ICE Shows Up

ICE & Your Rights

ICE & Your RightsEveryone on American soil possesses certain unalienable rights. Yet did you know that these rights apply even to undocumented immigrants? Do you know what your rights are if you are questioned or arrested by ICE?

Whether ICE agents show up at your home, at your place of employment, or on the street, it’s important to know your rights, as well as the limitations of ICE’s power and authority. Be aware of your rights. You are legally allowed to invoke them at any time. ICE officers might be hoping that you aren’t aware of your rights when they initially approach you. That window of time as soon as they approach you often presents them with the opportunity to make an arrest. Depending on your actions, you might give them reason enough to arrest you if they didn’t have it before.

You always have the right to remain silent.

You have a right to remain silent, even if ICE is legally arresting you, searching your home, or asking you questions on the street. In addition to remaining silent, you should not sign any paperwork or forms that officers may present to you. So, invoke your right to remain silent and request an expert immigration attorney.

Say to the officer, “I plead the Fifth Amendment and choose to remain silent.” Your right to remain silent means that you:

  • Are protected from self-incrimination
  • Do not need to respond to ICE questioning
  • Should not sign any paperwork presented by ICE

You always have the right to an attorney.

You have a right to legal representation. To ensure your protection, you and all your family members should have a list of reputable and trustworthy immigration lawyers in an accessible location. This way, you’ll have quick access to necessary contact information should you need it. Remember to contact an attorney as soon as possible. When searching for an immigration lawyer, you’ll want to hire someone experienced, knowledgeable, and respects you and your family.

Information About Search Warrants and Arrest Warrants

All warrants are not the same. ICE agents can’t issue search warrants, but they can issue arrest warrants. You may not want to open the door when questioning ICE agents about warrants. That’s okay – you can talk to them through the door. If they claim to have a warrant – whether for search or arrest – you can ask them to slide it under your door or hold it up against the door.

If an ICE agent has a search warrant:

  • Check the address on the search warrant. Is it your address? If it’s not the correct address, you don’t have to open the door. Inform them that they have the wrong address.
  • Remember, if ICE agents have a search warrant signed by a judge that is correct and lawful, you must allow them access to your home under penalty of law. This does not mean, though, that the law requires you to answer questions or sign paperwork.
  • It is helpful to know what a valid court-ordered search warrant should look like. A legal search warrant ordered by a judge will have correct identifying information, such as name and address. It will also have the name of the court and the judge’s signature. The ACLU provides an example here.

If an ICE agent has an arrest warrant:

  • Check for the name on the arrest warrant. Does that person live at the address where they showed up? If they don’t, you don’t have to open the door.
  • If an ICE agent comes with a specific arrest warrant bearing your name, do not resist them.
  • If ICE agents produce a valid arrest warrant with your name, but they do not have a search warrant, walk outside and close your door. This way, you will protect your loved ones from unlawful search. ICE cannot search your home without a court-issued search warrant.
  • If you are arrested, ask for an attorney.

ICE Searches and Arrests at your Home

It has happened to many immigrants. The forceful knock, the agent demanding that you open your door and submit to questioning or search. During such a stressful moment, it can be very difficult to think of the right thing to do. So, have a plan firm in your mind ahead of time.

Remain calm.

Obviously, this is no small feat, yet it is necessary. Remaining both calm and respectful gives you the greatest possibility of a successful outcome when dealing with ICE.

Keep your door closed.

Until you are sure ICE is legally searching or arresting you, you have the right to keep any ICE or DHS agents from entering your home.  If you freely offer access to your house, this may be considered as consent to a search.  Always request a warrant and deny entry until agents offer one. You can ask identifying and clarifying questions through your closed door or outside your home.

Ask for identification.

The agent at your door should be able to provide identification, including what agency he or she represents. Often, they will offer this information upfront, but if they don’t, you have the right to ask. You most likely will hear that the agent is from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security. Remember: your rights remain the same no matter the organization or agency.

Demand a warrant.

Government agents, including those from ICE, must have a court-ordered search warrant to forcibly enter and search your home. A search warrant can only be provided by a judge. If the agents do not have a specified search warrant, you may deny entry until they can provide one.

You have a right to review your search warrant before allowing entry. If you are inside, you may ask the agents to slide it under your door or hold it up against the window of the door so that you can see it. If ICE agents arrive when you are outside your home, remain there while talking to them. Do not go inside. You have a right to read and verify any warrants before opening your door or granting access to your home.

Invoke your right to remain silent.

If you are arrested or detained, do not forget to invoke your right to remain silent.

Invoke your right to an attorney.

You are allowed to speak with an attorney at any time. That is your right. Remember, you always have the right to legal representation.

ICE at the Office – Searches and Arrests at your Job

Often, ICE agents will arrive at a person’s place of work to either search the premises or conduct an arrest. First and foremost, ICE agents must either have a valid search or arrest warrant or the direct permission of the owner to enter any workplace. If agents receive access, they may legally address you and ask you questions. Again, you have rights no matter your immigration status, and you may invoke them at any time.

Stay calm.

Remember, remain calm and respectful when talking to ICE officers. If ICE agents perceive you as angry or disrespectful, it will make it more difficult to talk with the agents and may hurt your case if they arrest you.

Invoke your right to remain silent.

If ICE agents enter your workplace and attempt to question you, you do not have to answer. You can reply that you have the right to remain silent and plead the Fifth Amendment. You may respond in this fashion to any additional questions the agents may ask you.

Request an attorney.

As stated above, it is critical that you request an attorney if you are questioned, arrested, or detained by ICE officers. An experienced immigration lawyer can protect your rights and ensure a fair judicial process. Do not put your future in jeopardy by representing yourself if arrested or given a court date.

ICE on the Street

ICE agents have also been known to make arrests on the street in public. They might call your name out and wait for you to confirm who they think you are. They may try to detain you.

If you are detained on the street, remember your rights.

If ICE detains you on the street, before you say what your name is or confirm anything to them, ask them, “Am I free to go?” If they say that you are legally free to go, tell them, “I don’t wish to speak to you right now.” If they say that you are not legally free to go, then remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Say, “I have the right to remain silent. I’d like to speak to a lawyer.”

Tell them you don’t consent to a search.

If an ICE agent starts going through your belongings or your pockets, calmly tell them, “I don’t consent to a search. I want to speak to a lawyer.”

Do not resist, flee, lie, show fake documents or hand over your foreign documents.

If you are stopped by ICE agents on the street, do not show them fake documents. Also, never flee or resist arrest. They will use anything they have against you. You aren’t required to tell them anything at all, so don’t feel pressured to lie. Don’t answer any questions. Don’t tell them where you were born. Most importantly, since there are sometimes bad officers, do not give them your passport, your consular ID, or a visa- not even expired documents.

Rights Review

If you come face-to-face with ICE agents, remember that you have certain rights, no matter the situation. These rights apply at home or at work and despite any circumstances of your interactions with ICE. You have rights regardless of your immigration status and your family members do too.

In review, you’ll want to remember your rights if ICE or other government agents arrive at your home or place of work. Remember, you are allowed to:

  • Ask the agent(s) for identification
  • Ask for a warrant before opening your door
  • Invoke your right to remain silent
  • Request an attorney

Remember, do not resist search or arrest. Even if ICE forces their way into your home or place of work, resisting government agents will only put you and your loved ones in even more danger. In this case, your best chance at a successful outcome involves invoking your right to remain silent and requesting a lawyer.

  1. Will I be able to tell if an officer at my door is from ICE?
  2. Keep in mind, sometimes ICE agents give the impression that they are police officers or investigators who want to discuss an ongoing investigation in the area or identity theft. Be on guard anytime someone is questioning you.
  3. Can ICE show up at my college or school?
  4. Yes, with a proper warrant, ICE can show up anywhere. Remember your rights no matter where you are.
  5. Why shouldn’t I flee if ICE approaches me?
  6. Attempting to run away and escape an ICE arrest or detainment can give the agent independent grounds to detain you even if they don’t have a warrant. When an ICE agent shows up, they might be just investigating or looking for more information. Fleeing makes their job easier in a way. You should also know that resisting arrest can be an additional charge and complicate your defense.

Who is most at risk of an ICE arrest?

ICE specifically targets anyone without a lawful immigration status and people with legal status who have criminal convictions, removal orders, and more. It’s important to know that you could be a target of ICE even if your conviction was from years ago and even if you never had to serve jail time. Even a minor misdemeanor can put you on ICE’s radar. Some people feel like they are safe from ICE if all their family members are U.S. citizens, but that’s not true.

ICE agents usually figure out the people that they are going to arrest before the arrest is made. After deciding on who to target, they show up at homes, workplaces, and even shelters looking for that person.

Even if you don’t think you are at risk of being picked up by ICE agents, in today’s climate, especially in Texas, you must know your rights. It’s important to talk with your loved ones and have a plan in case you are picked up by ICE. It’s also important to have an attorney that you trust in case the unexpected happens.

Is there a way to avoid ICE encounters?

Know Your Rights when Facing ICE

There is no way to be 100% sure you will never encounter an ICE officer, but if you are legally in the U.S., following the terms of your visa, and U.S. laws, any encounters with ICE shouldn’t affect your status. Remember, helping your family members enter the U.S. without a visa is illegal and could result in your own removal.

If you are currently undocumented the best way you can avoid ICE is by finding a way to become legal in the U.S. Nanthaveth & Associates is experienced in immigration law and may be able to help you find a solution.

Talk to an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you are worried about immigration enforcement agents arriving at your home or place of work, be prepared. You should talk to an attorney now and develop an action plan. A lawyer who understands your rights as an immigrant can provide you with crucial facts and information.

These details will be of critical importance if ICE confronts you or your family. Additionally, you will be able to respond quicker to potential legal questions or concerns if you are working with an expert immigration attorney. The lawyers at Nanthaveth & Associates consistently and skillfully represent many immigrants looking for legal solutions to living and working in the U.S. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.