What do I do if ICE Comes to my Door? As an Immigration lawyer in Houston, I know this question has been on the minds of many immigrants. Over the last few weeks, you may have seen news stories or social media posts about ICE officers coming to homes and even motels to try to arrest someone they believe is living there. Sometimes the person they want to arrest has never been in immigration court and has no criminal record.
Recent Examples of Recent ICE Raids and Arrests
- In the state of New Jersey, we learned that ICE officers went to the home of a woman who had just naturalized a few days ago. Her husband’s status had expired, and she was planning to petition for him but had not yet done so.
- In Oregon, a man was working on a home renovation when ICE officers appeared and arrested him without a warrant and without express permission to enter the home.
- In Arizona, employees of Motel 6 began turning over guests’ information to ICE to facilitate arrests of individuals believed to be undocumented.
- In Houston, we learned that ICE went to the home of a married couple, a U. S. citizen wife and a husband who came to the country as a visitor and overstayed. Officers asked to speak to the husband, and when the U.S. citizen wife stated her husband was not home, she was told to “call him to come home.” When she called her attorney and stated he was on his way over, the officers left.
In these situations, the immigration law community was struck by ICE’s decision to pursue people with no criminal record, who were in places in which officers did not receive their consent to enter, and officers did not have a warrant. In the first and last example, the individuals ICE targeted had a clear path to apply for permanent residence in the United States, but had not yet applied.
In previous years, ICE clearly targeted individuals who had deportation or removal orders against them but were in the United States. Now, it seems like even those with no deportation order and no criminal history may also be targets.
Incidents like this leave many concerned families with questions: What do I do if ICE comes to my door? Do I have to open the door to them? What if they arrest a family member? It’s important to know your rights if ICE comes to your home looking for a loved one.
Do I Have to Open the Door to ICE Officers?
If ICE officers come to your home stating that they are looking for someone inside, you do not have to open the door to them. If you do open the door, it is likely that the officers will take the opportunity to enter your home whether you intended to consent to it or not. Keep the door closed and speak to them through it. If the officers only speak English and you cannot understand them, ask for an interpreter.
Does ICE Need a Warrent to Enter My Home?
Yes. Ask the officers (through the door) if they have a warrant. If they state that they do, ask them to pass it under the door so that you can see it without opening your door to them.
For ICE to enter your home and take the person they are looking for, they must have a judicial warrant issued by a court and signed by a judge. An ICE Warrant for Arrest of Alien or Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien is not a judicial warrant and is not signed by a judge, and you do not have to open the door to ICE if they present one of these documents. The warrant must also name a person in your home or list areas at your address that can be searched. If you aren’t sure if the warrant is a judicial warrant, take a picture and send it to your lawyer for review.
ICE Doesn’t Have a Judicial Warrant, Do I Have to Open the Door?
If ICE does not have a judicial warrant, you can tell them that you do not consent to a search of your home. If agents try to force their way in, don’t try to physically resist. State that you do not consent to their entry and search of your premises.
Can I Remain Silent if ICE is Trying to Arrest Me or Someone in My Home?
You have the right to remain silent. Whether ICE has a judicial warrant or not, everyone in your home has the right to remain silent. If you are undocumented and ICE enters your home, you can state that you are exercising your right to remain silent and want to speak to an attorney, and then keep silent. Statements you make will be used against you in immigration court and possibly in criminal court if you are subject to any criminal charges. Statements you make to officers without an attorney present may also be misinterpreted or incorrectly noted.
Should I Lie About My Immigration Status if ICE is Trying to Arrest Me?
Do not lie about your citizenship or present false documents. Any false statement about your citizenship, immigration status can stop you from obtaining legal status or create more hurdles in your immigration process. The same is true if you present false documents. A false claim to United States citizenship - either by showing a false U.S. passport or birth certificate or by falsely stating that you are a U.S. citizen - may permanently bar you from obtaining legal status in the United States.
ICE Doesn’t Have a Warrant, but They’re Still Outside – Now what?
In the example we saw in Houston, Texas, and some other situations our peers have experienced, ICE has indicated that they will wait outside the house until someone decides to open up or someone eventually has to leave the house. ICE agents waiting all day outside the house of someone with no criminal record to question him doesn’t seem to be the best use of taxpayer dollars, but it also presents a tough situation.
Eventually, people have to leave their house. If everyone inside is undocumented, anyone leaving may be approached by ICE. It is possible that officers present papers for you to sign. We do not recommend that you sign any papers without an attorney present to explain their meaning and how they might affect your ability to stay in the United States.
Some immigrants’ rights advocates have suggested that you record video footage of ICE officers outside your home, If you witness ICE agents entering a home or approaching a person, recording the incident may be helpful to show what actually took place. In addition, if agents approach your mailbox at your home, recording this is important – an attempt to remove mail from your mailbox may be considered mailbox tampering in violation of federal law.
Some have suggested that where other occupants in the household are U.S. citizens, they might consider calling local media to cover the incident because it may dissuade ICE from remaining outside the home. This may be effective in some situations, but it also may backfire, as local news media may identify your neighborhood or street, thus inviting future visits by ICE.
How Can I Be Prepared for ICE Visits?
As recent events show, even people with no criminal record who have never been in immigration court are now on ICE’s radar. The Trump administration is pressing for stricter enforcement against undocumented immigrants regardless of criminal and immigration history - even coming to the homes of people who entered the country legally but have overstayed their allowed time here. People are understandably worried about their immigration status.
Since ICE is broadening the scope of people it is targeting for arrest and detention, people who are out of status or undocumented should take time to meet with an experienced immigration attorney to go over their options. If there is something you can do now to apply for legal status, it may be time to take action. If you have consulted with a lawyer or are working with one, your attorney can also help if ICE appears at your home.
Anyone who is at risk of arrest and detention can prepare information and documents so that they can request a bond hearing as soon as possible. Others may be able to proactively file applications for legal status rather than waiting and hoping to avoid arrest. Even if you or someone in your household is at risk of being arrested and detained by ICE, you can be prepared to request a bond.
Schedule a consultation to find out more about how to do this.