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Advice from the Immigration Attorney: What To Do if Stopped by ICE

Even for those with documented status, being stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be humiliating and scary. For those without documentation, an ICE stop can be a life-threatening experience. After all, many undocumented immigrants arrive to the U.S. under such circumstances fleeing horrific violence. If stopped by the ICE, regardless of your immigration status, it is important to know that you have rights that may assist in your defense.

If questioned by ICE agents, this is what you should do:

1. Stay calm

The most important thing to do if stopped by an immigration or police officer is to maintain your composure. Do not run, do not argue, resist, or obstruct the officer. Keep your hands where they are visible and know that you have the right to remain silent and request an attorney. While exercising these rights, present any documentation you may have such as work authorization cards, visas, or green cards. There is no reason to hide these items.

2. Request a warrant

Immigration officials and police officers are required to present a warrant when detaining a person. Arrests happenings in a person’s home require a different warrant than that which permits an arrest in public. In the latter case, an “administrative warrant of removal” is sufficient; in the former, a search warrant or an arrest warrant signed by a judge that specifically names the person of interest is required. Ask to see the warrant and ensure it is the appropriate type. Keep in mind that officers can only search areas and for items listed on the warrant. Be certain to inspect the top and bottom of the warrant, ensuring that it has been issued by a court and signed by a judge.

3. If you are detained…

You have the right to a lawyer. If you do not have one, the government will not provide one…but you can ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services. Meanwhile, tell the ICE agent that you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer and do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, as doing so may jeopardize your ability to stay in the U.S. Take note of your immigration number (“A” number) and give it to your family as it will help them locate you.

4. Document the experience

It is important that you write everything down that happens during the stop, especially if you feel your rights have been violated. Make note of officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, the agency for which they work, and all other pertinent details. If witnesses are present, get their contact information. If you are injured, photograph your injuries and seek immediate medical attention. Be careful that you don’t take any action which could be construed as an obstruction or threat as this could result in criminal conviction. Video documentation is vital but must be conducted in a respectful manner and from a distance. Before pulling a cellphone out of your pocket or handbag, tell the officers what you’re reaching for so they don’t mistake your device for a weapon.

For more information about what to do if stopped by ICE and what rights your specific immigration circumstances permit, please contact our office. We would be happy to talk with you about your individual case.

Ask the Immigration Attorney

As one of Cleveland’s most compassionate immigration attorneys, I offer the opportunity to ask me one burning question completely free. If you have a question about what to do if you are stopped by the ICE or any other immigration matter, please submit your question using the brief form below.

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