In light of the recent raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, worry and anxiety has been spreading like wildfire throughout the entire immigrant community. While we do not know the extent to which the ICE raids have increased since Donald Trump started serving as president, we do know one thing for sure – ICE is casting a much broader net with their latest raids than they did when Obama was in office.
On January 25 of this year, Trump signed an executive order expanding the categories of undocumented immigrants who are now priorities for deportation. President Obama’s enforcement priorities focused on aliens who had been convicted of crimes. Trump’s priorities go much further. Through his executive order, Trump has issued a mandate for ICE to track down and pick up the immigrants who:
• have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;
• have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
• have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
• have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
• are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; and
• in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
It goes without saying that this order is so vague, that ICE officers now have unbridled discretion to catch and detain virtually any undocumented alien they may come across. Who decides what types of acts constitute a chargeable criminal offense? ICE does. Who decides which aliens pose a risk to public safety? ICE does. Based on these new executive orders, undocumented immigrants have reason to fear the recent changes. ICE may not quite have the personnel capacity yet to fully implement these new regulations, but it is virtually guaranteed that once the Department of Homeland Security hires 10,000 more ICE officers which Trump has promised, the implementation of Trump’s new policies will be even more far-reaching and disconcerting than what we are currently seeing.
The question that has been asked to me by many immigrants all across Louisiana is this – how should we respond if confronted by an ICE officer? Knowing the answer to this question is critical as it could be the difference between being placed in removal proceedings and remaining in the United States. Here are some key rules to follow when confronted by an ICE officer:
• If ICE comes to your home, do NOT open the door until an ICE officer first shows you a warrant signed by either a federal or magistrate judge. If they do have a warrant, make them either slide it under your door or place it against your window.
• If a warrant is presented to you, read it carefully. The warrant will identify what actions the ICE officers can and cannot take.
• See who signed the warrant – if the warrant is signed by anyone other than a federal or magistrate judge, ICE does not have the authority to enter your home.
• If you are detained by ICE, do not answer any questions they ask you without first speaking with an immigration attorney. ICE officers have been trained to take copious notes about their conversations with detained individuals, and these conversations are almost ALWAYS used against them in immigration court.
• If you are detained and placed in removal proceedings, you will be given a nine-digit alien number. As soon as possible, call your closest relative and give them this number. Your relative and/or attorney will be able to use this number to track your location at any given point in time. Oftentimes, ICE likes to move individuals all across the country so even if you are arrested in Los Angeles, California, you may ultimately end up in a detention facility in the middle of Pine Prairie, Louisiana.
• If you do decide to speak with an ICE officer, make sure not to make any false statements or provide false documents as doing so could lead to drastic legal consequences and could greatly affect your ability to either remain in or return to the United States.
• If you are in your car when stopped by an ICE officer, do not give consent for them to search your person or car unless they first give you a warrant, which they probably won’t have.
• If you are approached by an ICE officer and if you have children, it might be advisable to let them know you have children – this may lead the ICE officer choosing not to detain you, especially if you are the sole provider.
• While it is advisable to carry around a state-issued I.D. card such as a driver’s license, do not carry any passports or other papers from your home country. These papers will only be used against you in the immigration court.
• If an ICE officer stops you on the street and does not have a warrant, that officer cannot detain you unless they have evidence that you are not a citizen of the United States – do not give them such evidence by speaking to them.
• If an ICE officer conducts a workplace raid, your employer does not have to let them in either unless they present a warrant.
Again, knowing your rights can make a big difference in what happens. Always be vigilant and be wise. Immigration attorneys at Theus Law Offices would be more than happy to sit down with you in person free of charge in the event that you have additional questions or concerns about the recent ICE raids as we provide counsel to immigrants all across Louisiana including, Lafayette, Alexandria, Shreveport, and Monroe.