HOW TO DEAL WITH ICE AGENTS
In the past few months there have been numerous reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents stepping up their raids and enforcement activities. While many of these reports (such as ICE agents on the NY Subway or on the LIRR) never actually occurred some notable incidents have occurred with additional ICE raids of suspect work-sites and immigrant communities occurring including one incident where ICE agents demanded the ID’s of the occupants of a domestic flight (though in that case they were seeking a specific person not doing a generalized immigration sweep). As such it is important to know your basic rights should you find yourself confronted by ICE agents.
First you should keep in mind that ICE is not a general law enforcement agency and does not have the same broad investigatory powers that the police or the FBI does. Instead they are limited to investigating immigration violations only, if they discover other suspected violations of the law they are required to refer those matters to local law enforcement. In order for an ICE agent to arrest and detain you they need “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed an immigration violation of some kind. This means that while New York law enforcement or MTA employees can potentially ask to search your bags on entering or leaving a train or subway ICE cannot though they may try to claim this authority.
Next be aware that you still retain the right to not answer any questions of an ICE agent. This includes not actually needing to provide any form of identification nor do you need to actually open the door for any ICE agent unless they have a warrant. However be aware that non-compliance will likely be seen as a basis for “reasonable suspicion” by many ICE agents. You should also be very careful not to make any false statements to any ICE agent as they can be used against you. You should also have the card of an immigration attorney who you can reach should you be detained by ICE.
If confronted by an ICE agent you should try to be as non-confrontational as possible. Ask if they are actually arresting or detaining you and attempt to walk away from the agents as soon as is possible if they say no or decline to answer. If you need to communicate with them keep your answers short, ideally yes or no, and indicate that you have an attorney who may be able to answer any further questions in greater detail. If you wish to present your ID or Passport to the agent (if you have proper legal status here) be extremely careful about taking it out and always indicate beforehand that you are doing so to the agents. If confronted at the door of your home always demand to see the warrant before opening the door for the agents. If they lack a warrant ask them to leave a business card so that you or your attorney can speak with them at a later time.
These general rules should defuse most situations with ICE but be aware that if an ICE agent has made the decision to confront you they may well have decided to arrest you regardless and there may be little or nothing that you can actually do to stop them. In those cases these general rules should help to minimize the damage to your case until you can get proper legal representation.
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