Know Your Rights when Facing ICE

Your Rights When Facing ICE

Know Your Rights When Facing ICE

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. Yet in 2018, the Trump Administration and its enforcement officials continually assail the rights of immigrants across the country in a targeted and often hostile manner. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is frequently discussed in the news. This is due to its regular raids, deportations, 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. Knowing your rights and consulting an expert immigration lawyer can make the difference between staying in the US and being deported back to your country of origin. Any search or arrest by ICE can have devastating effects on you and your family. It is prudent that you know your rights in advance, just in case.

About Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Created in 2003, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly referred to as ICE, functions under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On its website, ICE states that its primary function is to “to identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety.”[1] ICE also targets those foreign nationals who “enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of…immigration laws and…border control efforts.”[2]

ICE has 24 Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices across the country (view the map). Within Texas, there are four ERO field offices, the most of any individual state. These offices are located in El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Each field office has an assigned area of operation, meaning that ICE enforcement in Texas is split into four operating areas. ERO field offices conduct all “on the ground” activity, including efforts such as identification and arrest of suspected undocumented aliens, raids, and forcible removal. Additional contact information for Texas-located ERO field offices can be found on ICE’s website.

ICE Raids and Deportations

ICE targets two classes of immigrants for deportation. 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. Legally, both of the above are legally qualified for deportation based on US law. ICE relies on local and state law enforcement to aid in data collection. If you live in a sanctuary city or jurisdiction, your local government may limit information voluntarily provided to ICE.

ICE conducts hundreds of thousands of raids and removals per year via its field offices. According to its website, ICE conducted 143,470 administrative arrests during fiscal year 2017 (FY2017), which it touts as the highest in the past three years. Additionally, ICE directed removal of 226,119 persons from the United States. Of those removals, ICE initially arrested 36% (81,603).[3] More statistics and data regarding ICE’s FY2017 activity, including arrests, convictions, and removals, can be found in its annual report. These data mean that if ICE arrives at your door to serve an arrest warrant, you have a high likelihood of facing deportation.  The odds are even higher if you do not know your rights as a person on US soil or if you do not have legal representation.

ICE & Your Rights

Any person on American soil, whether or not they are a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or visa holder, possesses certain unalienable rights. These rights apply even to illegal or undocumented immigrants, the common targets of ICE. So, what are your rights if you are questioned or arrested by ICE?

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 during a free initial consultation. You need to know your rights in a variety of situations. These nuanced situations make it difficult to discern the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why.’ An experienced lawyer will help you understand your rights and will represent you should ICE challenge your right to live in the US.

ICE at the Door – 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 remember that you have rights. But what are they?

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 consent – 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 without questioning what agency they are from. If they don’t, you have the right to ask. You most likely will hear that the agent is from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 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 in order 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 (if possible). If ICE agents arrive when you are outside your home, remain there while talking to them. You have a right to read and verify any warrants before opening your door or granting access to your home.

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 a signature. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provides an example here.

Additionally, you should be aware of the following:
  • Note that ICE agents can issue arrest warrants. If an ICE agent comes with a specific arrest warrant bearing your name, do not resist them and ask for an attorney.
  • If ICE agents produce a valid arrest warrant with your name but 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 search warrant.
  • 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 request they slide it under your door (if possible).
  • 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.

Remain silent.

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

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; and
  • Must contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Request an attorney.

If necessary, you have a right to attorney representation. In order to ensure your protection, you and your family 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.

Be ready for ICE.

For more detailed information about your rights, it is best to contact an immigration attorney. When searching for an immigration lawyer, you’ll want to hire someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and respects you and your family. The lawyers at Nanthaveth & Associates are skilled in deportation law and can represent your interests should ICE knock on your door.

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 rights.

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 may respond in this fashion for any additional questions the agents may ask you. Know that it is wise to also request an attorney.

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; and
  • Must contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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.

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.

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 may:

  • Ask the agent(s) for identification;
  • Ask for a warrant before opening your door;
  • Invoke your right to remain silent; and
  • 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.

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 clients facing the threat of deportation. Contact them today for a free initial consultation – they’ll answer your questions and calm your fears.


[1]US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2018, July 31). Enforcement and Removal Operations Overview. Retrieved from

[2]US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2018, July 31).

[3]US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2017). Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report. Retrieved from