The fluctuating state of immigration enforcement in the United States continues to bring new questions and challenges to those living in the country without citizenship. For non-citizens worried about your status in the country, it’s important to know your rights if approached by immigration enforcement officials.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have taken to approaching, questioning and even detaining individuals in nearly every setting from courtrooms and schools to workplaces and homes. If approached by ICE officers, keep a few important considerations in mind.
Say only what you need to
Even persons in the country illegally have the right to remain silent when approached by ICE officers. No one can force you to say why you’re in the country, where you were born or how you came to the U.S. Staying silent yet cooperative can offer you the best chance of getting through the situation without potentially worsening matters.
There are a few things you can and should say:
- “Do you have a warrant?” If so, ask to see the warrant and check for a judge’s signature near the top.
- “Here is my relevant paperwork.” Keep any immigration documents with you when possible. This includes a visa, green card or work authorization that may prove your legal status to the agents. Do not under any circumstances present fraudulent documents or lie to the officers.
- “I’d like to call my lawyer.” It may prove helpful to keep a lawyer’s phone number at hand when possible. Keep an attorney’s number in your phone or written down somewhere safe for quick access.
It’s important to cooperate with immigration officials, but that doesn’t mean you have to go along with mistreatment or abuses of power. Some individuals choose to document an interaction with ICE or have others document these interactions. That could be helpful in the case of mistreatment, but proceed with caution and keep a safe distance to avoid further tensions in the situation.
Remember your rights
Interacting with immigration officials can be a scary experience, particularly in the current contentious climate surrounding immigration in the U.S. Even with the challenging elements, it’s important that you remember your rights when interacting with ICE officers. Advocates and attorneys work to protect the rights of all persons in the U.S. regardless of legal status. You have options available to handle an interaction with or detainment by immigration officials.