President Trump’s executive order banning nationals from seven predominantly-Muslim countries have prompted confusion and fear. Several reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have arrested, detained or deported individuals and are possibly planning raids have profoundly added to that confusion and fear.
Here are the eight most important steps to protect yourself from being arrested and immediately deported, whether you’re a documented or undocumented immigrant:
1. Don’t Let Agents Inside
Buy and install a hotel lock (door guard) on your front door. If ICE agents come knocking, ask to see the warrant without letting them in.
2. Ask to See a Warrant
Have ICE officers slide the warrant under the door or under the hotel lock. Take your time to read the warrant.
If the warrant is an administrative warrant, ICE can only enter if YOU give permission. Do not give permission. You do not have to open the door.
If the warrant was signed by a judge or magistrate, read what the warrant gives the officers permission to do. Does the warrant give ICE permission to arrest a specific person? Question people and inspect the place? If the warrant appears valid, ICE agents have the right to enter your home. But make sure they only do what the warrant authorizes—nothing more.
3. Don’t Answer Questions
Do not answer any questions from ICE agents or volunteer information. Speaking with ICE agents will not help you—and may actually increase your risk of being deported.
4. Contact an Attorney
Tell ICE agents you want to speak to your attorney. You have the right to an attorney, but the government does not pay for public defenders in the immigration court system. Unfortunately, immigration law is not criminal law, so you have no right to a public defender. You will either need to find a lawyer willing to take your case for free or hire one.
Make sure to have the number of a trusted attorney on hand—programmed into your cell phone—so you can call her in an emergency.
5. Do Not Sign Anything
Do not sign any paperwork, especially a voluntary departure document. If you accept voluntary departure, you can be deported immediately with no chance to remain in the U.S., get your belongings or say goodbye to family and friends. If you live in Southern California and are from Mexico, you could be on a bus heading back to Mexico by nightfall. And if you lived here illegally, you will find it very difficult to return to the United States.
If you have been in the U.S. for more than 1 year without permission—that is you lived in the U.S. for more than a year illegally—you will be barred from returning to the U.S. for 10-years. Getting a waiver for the 10-year bar is very difficult.
6. Insist on the Closest Immigration Judge
Exercise your right to see an immigration judge. And insist on seeing an immigration judge at the court closest to where you live. This will help ensure that your case will not be transferred to another, faraway court.
7. Appear in Immigration Court
If you insist on seeing an immigration judge, you will be instructed when and where to appear in immigration court. Make sure you show up at the right time and location. A court can order you to be deported even if you don’t show up. An arrest warrant will be issued, and once you’re found, you face immediate deportation.
Make sure you keep your address current with the court, so they can inform you by mail if your court date changes.
It is advisable to find a lawyer—there are some lawyers and legal nonprofits that will take cases for free—who will represent you in immigration court. A lawyer is indispensable in figuring out the oftentimes complicated ways for you to try to get a green card and stay in the United States legally.
8. “Know Your Rights” Card
Click on the ILRC links below. Print out the card, which is available in both English and Spanish. Keep a copy in your wallet.
Contact us if you’re worried about customs enforcement or if you want help determining the best strategy for you, your family or your colleagues to stay in the U.S. legally. My staff and I are ready to help.