What should I do during an ICE raid?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader who is afraid of being arrested by immigration authorities in the United States.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I entered the United States illegally in 2008. I was arrested by the border patrol, but they let me out on parole on the condition that I report to immigration court in Los Angeles. I did not go to court and now I have a deportation order.

Currently, I work as a cook and file my taxes. I have never been arrested by the police.

On the news they are announcing that there are going to be raids to arrest people who have deportation orders. What should I do if I am confronted by immigration agents? -Armando E.

Armando, the U.S. government has been doing immigration raids for years to arrest people with deportation orders. You are right to be concerned, because your case is complicated. You should see an immigration attorney immediately to determine your legal options.

In analyzing your situation, among other things, an immigration attorney should do the following:

  1. Review the Notice to Appear you received from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the immigration court subpoena to determine the validity of the documents.
  2. Ask you why you immigrated to the United States and whether you suffered or fear persecution in your home country.
  3. Find out why you did not appear in immigration court.
  4. Evaluate the possibility that you may be able to reopen your case in immigration court and apply for an immigration benefit.

What to do if you are confronted by an ICE agent

It is essential that you know what your rights are if ICE shows up at your home, place of employment, or arrests you in an immigration raid.

General tips

  1. Always try to remain calm.
  2. Do not attempt to escape or resist arrest. Doing so may make your situation worse. You may be stopped for questioning but not arrested.
  3. Remain silent. Do not answer questions or say what your country of origin is or how you entered the United States.
  4. If you do speak, never lie to a federal government official. Lying to them has legal consequences that can hurt your situation even more.
  5. Never present false documents such as green cards or work permits. This is severely penalized by law.
  6. Never sign documents without first talking to an immigration lawyer. You could be admitting guilt or agreeing to self-deportation.

If ICE comes to your home:

  1. Do not open the door.
  2. Ask to see a warrant. If they don't have one, you don't have to open the door and the agents can't enter your home.
  3. Do not allow an officer to enter your home without a warrant. If they enter with your permission, you could lose some of your rights.

If ICE comes to your place of employment:

  1. Agents must have a valid search warrant or obtain consent from your employer to enter private areas of the business.
  2. If agents try to group employees by immigration status and ask you to stand in a group according to your immigration status, you do not have to do so.
  3. If you do, and you are undocumented, you are confirming that status to the agents. In such a situation, another option is to stand in an area that is not designated for a particular group - even if you are alone.

If ICE arrests you:

  1. Ask the immigration officer to take you to a detention center in the city closest to where you live. This is important so that they do not transfer your case to somewhere far away.
  2. Ask to speak with an immigration attorney and your consular representative. I recommend that you identify a trusted attorney now, so that you have his or her information and can contact him or her if ICE arrests you.

IMPORTANT: By law, notarios, immigration consultants, paper fillers, and multi-services cannot give you legal advice. You need a licensed and experienced immigration attorney to properly defend you before the immigration authorities and try to prevent a deportation.