What should I do if ICE arrests me or comes to my home?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers a question from a reader who is frightened by the recent raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

I came to the United States almost 18 years ago. I married a U.S. citizen and went on to get my permit and social security, but our marriage did not work out. I got divorced and did not go to immigration appointments out of fear. I have never been in trouble with the law. I live 8 years with an American citizen but have not wanted to get married. Do I have a chance to get my papers done here? Am I in danger because of the raids they are doing? - Dinora G.

Dinora, your ability to get permanent residency and file papers within the U.S. depends on your background and several factors. For example, it is important to know: How did you enter the country? Did your first husband file a family petition on your behalf?

Your situation must be analyzed to determine your options. However, you may be able to obtain your permanent residency if you marry your current partner of 8 years, who is a U.S. citizen. You will have to prove that your marriage is bona fide. That is, it is not just for immigration benefits. In addition, you will have to present evidence that you are married and that your future spouse is a U.S. citizen, among other requirements.

If you entered the United States illegally, you may have to travel to your home country to claim your permanent residency, unless you are covered by 245(i). This law allows you to obtain residency in the country if you meet certain requirements, including showing that someone filed a family or employment-based petition on your behalf before May 1, 2001. That is why it is important to know if and when your first husband petitioned for you.

If you have to travel abroad to claim your residency, you should proceed with great caution because you will have to obtain a provisional waiver of the law of punishment for having lived in the United States illegally. You will only be able to obtain a waiver if you can show that it would be an extreme detriment to your future spouse.

Regarding your fear about raids, the reality is that every undocumented person is subject to removal from the U.S. unless they have a valid reason for staying in the country.

ICE has a priority list and sole discretion to decide which individuals will be deported from the country. Among the highest priorities: undocumented immigrants with criminal records, people apprehended at the border while trying to enter the U.S. illegally, and immigrants with deportation orders extended by the immigration court after December 31, 2013.

You have lived in the U.S. for many years and do not have a criminal record. Even if you have a deportation order, it is likely, if it was issued before January 1, 2014, that you are among ICE's lowest priorities for deportation. Therefore, they may exercise their discretion not to deport you and allow you to remain in the country while you fix your immigration status. But this is not a certain science. It depends not only on your record, but also on the discretion of ICE officials.

You should consult with an immigration attorney to investigate and obtain your immigration records from the federal government to determine what can be done in your case.

What to do if ICE arrests you or comes to your home

It is critical that you know what your rights are if ICE shows up at your home or arrests you in a raid.

If ICE arrests you:

Keep quiet: do not answer questions or say what your country of origin is or how you entered the United States. But if you do speak, do not lie to the ICE officer.

2. Do not show any kind of document that proves you are a foreigner.

3. Under no circumstances show false documents such as a green card or work permits.

4. Do not sign any document you are given without first talking to a lawyer. The last thing you want to do is sign a Voluntary Departure Order without knowing how it will impact you.

5. Ask the immigration officer to schedule your case for hearing at the immigration court in the city closest to where you live. This is important so that they do not transfer your case to a distant location.

6. Ask to speak to an immigration attorney. If you are undocumented, I recommend that you identify a trusted attorney now, so that you have his or her information and can contact him or her if you are ever arrested by ICE.

If ICE comes to your home:

Do not open the door.

2. Ask to see the court order. If they don't have it, you don't have to open the door.

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.

4. Keep silent: do not answer questions or say what your country of origin is or how you entered the United States.

5 Do not sign any document you are given without first speaking to a lawyer.