Last updated on January 30th, 2019
Every year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) questions hundreds of individuals at their homes and places of work. However, ICE does not detain or deport every person that they question.
Instead, ICE uses interviews to follow up on tips and investigate before making arrests. By acting carefully and remembering your civil rights, you can reduce the risk of arrest during or after an interview with ICE.
In this article, we’ll go over 8 tips that can help you interact with ICE. However, keep in mind that no article is a substitute for a good immigration lawyer. If you have been contacted by ICE and believe you will be deported, seek legal counsel immediately.
1. Ask for A Warrant
Under US law, an ICE officer needs a warrant to enter a person’s home. If an ICE officer shows up at your home, you should ask for a warrant before doing anything else. If the officer doesn’t have a warrant, keep the door shut, and say you are exercising your right to remain silent.
Keep in mind that not all warrants allow an ICE officer to enter your home. In particular, it’s important to remember that ICE warrants (or “administrative warrants”) do not permit officers to enter your home without your consent. In order to do so, an officer must present you with an ICE detainer or a warrant reviewed by a judge.
2. Remain Silent
Currently, the Board of Immigration Appeals does not require ICE officers to inform individuals of their right to remain silent. However, that right still applies in all interactions with ICE or other law enforcement officers.
If an ICE officer asks, you must provide them with your name and date of birth, but that’s all. If they ask any other questions, you can and should say that you are exercising your legal right to remain silent.
On the other hand, if you have valid immigration paperwork, it is usually a good idea to provide it. If you can easily prove that you are in the U.S. legally, ICE will have little reason to continue to investigate you.
However, you should never provide an ICE officer with forged or otherwise illicit documents. Doing so is a crime, and could result in serious consequences. Further, make sure the officer returns your documents if you provided the originals.
3. Don’t Lie
In most cases, it’s in your best interests to remain silent when an ICE officer confronts you. If you do decide to talk, however, never lie to them.
If you lie about your or a family member’s immigration status, an immigration court may accuse you of willful misrepresentation. This will disqualify you from many relief programs, and could result in deportation.
Instead, it is better to avoid answering the question in the first place.
4. Record the Encounter Without Interfering
There is no law against recording an ICE officer during a questioning or arrest. However, you must avoid interfering with their duties while you do so.
For this reason, it is best to clearly state that you intend to record the encounter before you begin. In particular, avoid making any sudden moves that could be construed as aggressive.
While it can be stressful, recording your encounter with ICE has a number of advantages. First and foremost, it ensures that you have an accurate record of the incident, should it come up during your case. In addition, having a complete record of your interaction with ICE is immensely helpful for your lawyer.
If you do not have access to a camera, consider taking your own notes during or immediately after the encounter. In some instances, providing these notes to an attorney can help strengthen your case.
5. Don’t Hide or Flee
Sometimes, people panic during unexpected encounters with ICE and attempt to run away. However, doing so is an extremely bad idea.
First, fleeing from law enforcement is illegal itself, and will be used as evidence during your removal proceedings. Worse, running away is incredibly dangerous—this year alone, several people have been killed in car accidents while fleeing from ICE.
6. Don’t Consent to a Search
During your interview, an ICE officer may ask to search your home, car, or person. In all cases, you should politely but firmly refuse to consent.
While they may still do so with a warrant, it is best to have your unambiguous refusal to consent on the record. However, while you may politely verbally refuse, under no circumstances should you physically resist a search.
Note that, like all law enforcement, ICE officers may search you for weapons without a warrant. However, they must do so through a quick pat-down search. Anything further requires a warrant from a judge (not an ICE warrant).
7. Don’t Sign Anything
Over the past several months, reports have surfaced alleging that ICE agents have coerced immigrants into waiving certain rights. Currently, this does not seem to be a widespread practice.
Regardless, it is never in your best interests to sign anything that an ICE officer gives you without consulting your lawyer. Always seek legal counsel before making any binding agreement with ICE.
8. Contact an Attorney Immediately
In most cases, ICE questions individuals whom they suspect of committing immigration infractions. For this reason, it’s important to contact a lawyer right away after your interview ends. Even if you feel that you are safe, consulting an immigration lawyer is the only way to guarantee that you have a strong case for remaining in the U.S.
The only exception is for cases where you provided an ICE officer with definitive proof that you hold a lawful immigration status. Even then, if ICE continues to contact you, get in touch with an immigration attorney. As in all immigration-related matters, its better to be careful and prepare for the worst.
Finally, remember that you have a federally-guaranteed right to an attorney. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe during your questioning, simply inform the ICE officers that you want to talk to your lawyer. According to federal law, they must allow you to do so. Note, however, that there are no court-appointed attorneys for immigration proceedings. You are responsible for finding your own attorney.
Any encounter with ICE is a nerve-wracking experience. However, by keeping cool and remembering your rights, you can avoid the worst dangers of an ICE interview.
Of these rights, the most important is your right to an attorney. Never hesitate to consult an immigration lawyer while talking to ICE officers, especially if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
In the event that you end up in court, consulting an attorney early can have a huge positive impact on your case.