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What are my rights if Immigration Enforcement (ICE) comes to my home? What if ICE Comes to My Home to Deport Me?

Immigration and Business Law

In the last few weeks, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has introduced mandates that suggest a shift from focusing resources on certain individuals targeted for deportation as a result of criminal acts to anyone who is in the United States unlawfully or has a potential charge of deportability.  This also includes green card holders who have had any contact with the criminal justice system. These changes have created some degree of fear in immigrant communities and many are uncertain as to whether any of the new directives will impact them.  Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can be deported and if you or someone you live with is not a U.S. citizen, it is important to know your rights in the event that Immigration comes to your door.

How do I know if it is Immigration at my door? Will an officer identify themselves as an Immigration Officer?

ICE will not necessarily identify themselves as Immigration. ICE normally comes to someone’s home very early in the morning and knocks on the door.  They will have on a uniform but ICE are not the police although at times some parts of their uniform may be marked as police.  One key thing to keep in mind is that if ICE enters your home, you or anyone else can be detained by them.

Do I have to open the door for ICE?

If ICE does not have a judicial warrant, you do not have to open the door. It is your right not to open the door if ICE is not in possession of a warrant. You can ask if ICE has a warrant, and you can ask them to slip the warrant under the door.  You should note that ICE needs a judicial warrant, signed by a Judge, and not just an administrative warrant which is signed by an ICE officer, in order to come into your home without your permission.

It is very hard to tell the difference between a judicial warrant and an administrative warrant, so if you want to exercise your rights, you can assert, through a closed door, insisting on the following: “I don’t want you in my home.” ICE may be very insistent also, but it is your right to continue to repeat that statement.

If ICE really does have a judicial warrant, they can lawfully break down your door. If ICE simply has an administrative warrant, which is at times the case, they cannot forcefully enter and will eventually leave. If you can’t tell the difference between a judicial and an administrative warrant, you may choose just to keep the door closed but as described above, ICE has the right to break down the door if they have a judicial warrant.

Do I have to speak with ICE?

You do not have to speak to ICE or answer any of their questions if you do not want to. You can tell ICE, “I do not want to speak with you.” While you do not have to give any information, it is important that if you do speak with ICE, that you only tell the truth. If there is information that you have regarding someone ICE is looking for that you do not to disclose, do not lie!  Instead, simply say “I don’t want to speak with you.”

Should you Make a Plan?

Yes.  It is important for everyone in your household to know what to do if ICE comes to your home. It can be a very scary situation and it is important to remain calm in that moment to remember your rights.    While the situation is one where emotions can certainly run high, there is no benefit to try to start an argument or to undertake any action that could be perceived as threatening.  Instead, stay calm and follow the above advice.  You should designate a level headed and calm person in the family to do the speaking behind the closed door and to do the speaking if ICE has a judicial warrant and enters your home.  There is absolutely no benefit (and possible significant detriment) to be argumentative or belligerent with the ICE officials but instead you should stick to the facts and/or statements like, “I don’t want to speak to you” or “I do not want you in my home.”

If ICE has a warrant and enters your home and you do have valid immigration documents, you can show them those documents; however, please remember that even if you are a green card holder, you may be deportable based on a ground of deportability such as a criminal conviction. If ICE has a warrant and enter your home and you do not have valid immigration documents, you can show them forms of identification such as a municipal ID card or a library card. Do not give a government official any false documents, and you may choose not to give them any foreign documents. You do have a right to refuse giving identification and a passport.

It is also important to get biographical information about any loved one who may be at risk for being picked up by ICE. Please have their full name (including middle names and any second last name), date of birth, country of birth, countries of nationality (there may be more than one), and if available, the person’s A number. An A-number can be found on an employment authorization card and on a green card. This information is vital in locating someone who may be picked up by ICE.

If someone suddenly does not come to work or no longer answers your call, this person may very well have been picked up by ICE. You can try to locate the person using the following detainee locator which is not always successful:

If someone has any health problems and needs medications, make sure that the person gives this information to ICE. If a person is picked up in their home, he or she should tell ICE about their needed medication.

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