Navigating the Anxiety of ICE and Preparing for Uncertain Times Ahead

Navigating the Anxiety of ICE and Preparing for Uncertain Times Ahead

Hard times are coming! Immigration policies are growing more aggressive, and ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is enforcing them without compassion. ICE agents will stop at nothing to take undocumented people out of the United States, regardless of how long they have lived here, if their kids are U.S. citizens, or even if their immigration status is still pending. So here are some next steps to help you, your family, or your loved ones stay safe if and when ICE knocks on your door or stops you while driving.

What are the first steps? 

Stay calm and remember that ICE loves to see its prey out of control. Taking steps to reduce your anxiety will help you think clearly and maintain your confidence. So, take a deep breath and try to steady yourself; don’t make any sudden or strange moves. Always keep your hands where the ICE agent or police officer can see them. If they ask about your immigration status, don’t lie or give false documentation. Remember that you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions.

What are my rights?

  • Ask if they are immigration agents and have them show you their badge or identification through the window. 

  • If officers come to your house, you can keep your door closed. They can only enter your home with a judicial search or arrest warrant. 

    • If the officers say they have a warrant, ask them to show it to you through your window or slip it under your door. 

    • Officers are legally allowed to enter the hope of the person identified by the warrant if they believe that person is inside. However, a warrant of deportation/removal (Form I-205), does NOT permit an officer to enter the house without approval.

  • You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in immigration court.

  • If an ICE agent asks for your legal status papers, you are required to show them if you have them with you.

  • If an ICE agent asks to search you, remember that you have the right to refuse a search by saying no; they do NOT have the right to search you without your consent. Police officers, however, can legally pat you down if they suspect you are carrying a weapon. 

  • If you are protected under the Dream Act, carry your papers everywhere you go. If you don’t have them with you, remember that you have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer.

  • Don’t confuse an ICE agent for a police officer. If you are driving and you get pulled over, an officer is only allowed to ask you for your license, car registration and proof of insurance. He cannot ask you for proof of immigration status papers, only ICE can ask for these papers. 

What if I get arrested or detained?

  • If the police arrest you, you have the right to ask for a government-appointed lawyer. 

  • If ICE arrests you, you have the right to consult a lawyer, but the government is not responsible for providing one. You can ask for a list of low-cost lawyers or call your personal lawyer if you already have one.

  • You have the right to make one phone call. If you choose to call your lawyer, the police cannot hear your conversation. 

  • Memorize your “A-Number” - also known as your “Alien Registration Number.” Click here to see where you can find this number. It’s really important to share this number with your lawyer or family members so that they can locate you if you get detained. 

  • Do not try to explain your situation to ICE agents; remain silent. Your lawyer is the only person you should talk to about your immigration status. If ICE agents try to scare or push you to answer their questions, don’t give in. Stay silent until you can speak to your lawyer. 

  • Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status. 

  • Do NOT disclose any information about your immigration status, where you were born, or where you are from to ICE agents. 

  • Do NOT sign any paper without consulting your lawyer first. Read every single thing they give you in full. If you can’t read it or understand it, ask for an interpreter.

What if I feel like my rights were violated?

  • Write down as much detail as you can. For example, record the officer's name, what agency they were from, and their patrol car number. Also, try to get contact information for any witnesses present at the time of the interaction. 

  • If you sustained injuries during the interaction, take photos of your injuries, and seek medical attention. 

  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously.

Know your rights, and know that there are people here to protect you and help you through hard moments like these. Though facing ICE can be one of the scariest things a person can deal with, it can also make you stronger. 

Immigrants are the American Dream; they strive to be the best, and they dream about making the world a better place. For immigrants, these dreams become goals, and their goals become actions. To put it simply, immigrants and Dreamers make the United States a better place to live for all of us. So to all the Dreamers and immigrants out there, keep fighting for your dreams and this country. You belong here!