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If you are an immigrant, it is important that you are prepared and know how to act if ICE agents show up at your door to avoid making mistakes. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

As the investigative arm of DHS, it is responsible for conducting border security and control, immigration, trade, and customs activities. ICE was created in 2003. It was born from the merger between the United States Customs Service and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

An inopportune encounter with ICE agents or local police can be overwhelming and unpleasant. Especially, when the immigrant does not have a defined immigration status in the country or is experiencing a situation of illegality.

Knowing how to act if ICE agents show up at your door and to know your rights and those of your family, is the purpose of this article. Whether you have a surprise encounter with ICE agents on the street or in your own home.

If you were arrested by an immigration officer or need help with any other immigration matter, we can help you. Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles have successfully defended hundreds of immigrants for over 40 years.

How to act if ICE agents show up at your door

The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to undocumented immigrants. Of course, no one can guarantee that these rights are violated and people are sometimes detained. However, these rights must be enforced, regardless of the circumstances.

ICE immigration officers cannot enter your home unless they file a “court order.” This order is the only valid document to enter your home. It must be signed by a judge or have been issued by a government agency.

There are two types of order in this regard. One is the arrest warrant issued by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE). The other is the search warrant on your home, which can be issued only by a court.

How to act towards ICE police agents
Photo courtesy by ICE

Here’s what your rights are as an immigrant in the US so you can take the following steps:

  1. When an officer knocks on your door, you are not required to open it. Ask him to identify himself first while keeping the door closed. You can ask if he comes alone or accompanied and to which agency he belongs.
  2. The officer could respond that he comes from ICE, from the “Department of Homeland Security” or is from the local police. Regardless of the agency he mentions, don’t open the door. Ask with the door closed even if he has a court order. If you answer yes, don’t open the door either. Ask him to show you the order by sliding it under the door.
  3. Take a good look at the order and look for your sender’s name, address, and signature on it. This way you will know if the order is legal or not. The order is written in English so if you can’t understand what it says, seek help or translate it yourself with your phone’s translator.
  4. If you have doubts about the validity of the order, return it under the door again and mention that it seems they made a mistake.
  5. However, if the order seems right to you, look carefully at who issues it, whether ICE or a court.

Do I have to open the door to ICE agents?

This is one of the most frequent doubts about how to act if ICE agents show up at your door.

If the court order was issued by a court authorizing the search of your home, you must let the agent in. Instead, if the arrest warrant was issued by ICE, the officer only has the right to arrest you.

The migration agent cannot break into your home; you will have to decide if you go out to meet him. He can’t search your home as he would need an additional search warrant.

By allowing the officer to enter your home, he will be able to question anyone else who is with you. This is important to know, when there are other people in the house with immigration problems as well.

Outside of your home, the officer also has no right to enter, so close the door again. You should not sign any documents and ask the officer that you want to call your attorney before testifying.

If you don’t want to, don’t show any identification document that specifies your country of origin. Of course, you must ensure that you do not carry false documentation.

Some foreigners after being arrested may need immigration bail bonds. In some cases immigration attorneys recommend a resource called removal withholding.

How do I protect myself if immigration agents reach my home?

The immigration officer can only enter your home legally if you give permission. In other words, you give your consent. Unless he has a court order. As with the arrest warrant, ask the officer to identify himself. Also let the search warrant slide under the door.

If the officer does not accept, do not open it, and if you consider the order to be false, do not do so either. Let him know that you doubt about the validity of the order and immediately call an experienced immigration attorney.

Sometimes an officer may try to break into your home. If you ask for consent to open the door and you say yes due to fear, the arrest may be illegal. The court may consider that the officer violated your rights. Especially when your house is surrounded by patrols with the lights on and you have a gun pointed at you.

Make sure a trusted person always knows where you are and can communicate in an emergency situation. Particularly if you are detained by ICE. Also, don’t forget to have the name and phone number with you of a good immigration attorney on your house and smartphone.

The faster the lawyer acts, the fewer complications your case will have. We recommend that the trusted person (family / friend) keeps a copy of your identity and immigration documents.

ICE immigration police
Photo courtesy by ICE

Can ICE enter a private property?

As previously stated, the home, office, or any other private property is inviolable. ICE has no right to enter private property, unless they file a court order.

Can ICE request papers?

They can definetly ask for them, but the person is not required to show them. Basic constitutional rights can be exercised by legal and paperless immigrants anywhere. We refer to public places, private homes or in the workplace.

Among the rights of the immigrant we find the following:

Keep silence

Everyone in the United States has the right to remain silent, as well as to refuse to answer questions. The ICE or police officer, in addition, is under the obligation to aloud mention citizens’ rights.

Just to facilitate the search for family members if you are arrested, it is suggested to give the full name. Also mention the date of birth and say “I exercise my right to remain silent” out loud.

Do not sign documents or lie

Another right is not to answer questions about how you entered the country or place of birth. You also do not have to offer excuses or explanations for being present in the U.S. Of course, never lie or claim to have an immigration status that you do not have, and never provide false documents.

No authority can compel you to sign papers without the presence of an attorney. Any document you sign if you do not understand English well may mean your own deportation. It is advisable not to disclose your immigration status to anyone except your attorney.

Right to request an attorney

Everyone has the right to request the presence of an attorney before answering any questions. Likewise, you have the right to make a local call and communicate with a consular authority in your country of origin.

During immigration procedures, the US it does not provide a public defender as it does in criminal proceedings. So you will have to hire him and bear the costs of representation in Los Angeles Immigration Court.

The American justice system establishes that the representation of a lawyer is a constitutional right. This resource is part of the famous Miranda right:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to get a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the court will assign one for you. ”

What do I do if I am a naturalized immigrant?

If you’re a naturalized US citizen, in theory at least, no immigration agent can stop you. Therefore, you must say that you are a citizen. But if at that time you do not have any identity document to prove your citizen status, it is preferable to remain silent.

Remember that if you do not present a valid document (passport, naturalization certificate, driver’s license, social security) you can be detained. You can then call a family member to bring the documents and the lawyer to represent you.

What to do if you are a U.S. citizen by birth?

If you are a U.S. citizen and an authority asks you to prove your citizenship, you have the right not to respond. There are many ways for the Department of Homeland Security to verify your status. Although there have been cases in which US citizens have been arrested and deported.

To avoid confusion, arbitrariness and violations of your rights, it is advisable to always have at least one identification document with you.

How to act if you are a permanent resident?

Our expert immigration attorneys always recommend that you carry your green card. This will make things easier when an ICE agent, police officer, or other authority stops you.

If you are a non-immigrant alien, it is advisable to have your I-94 entry / exit document on hand. Failing that, you can also show the EAD employment authorization or the state driver’s license.

Now you know how to act if ICE agents show up at your door. For more information on the subject or to resolve any other immigration matter, do not hesitate to call our offices. Our immigration lawyers are deportation specialists and know how to deal with ICE when you execute an arrest.