Immigrants have rights when ICE comes to arrest them, but experts warn this only goes so far
Associated Press/Chris Carlson
- Immigration authorities are planning to arrest members of some 2,000 immigrant families with outstanding deportation orders.
- Immigrants across the country are preparing for the worst, and lawyers and experts have urged them to know their rights if ICE comes knocking.
- Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have prepared extensive webpages describing how to handle encounters with ICE agents, whether it's at home or in public.
- But lawyers and experts say those instructions only go so far - and ICE has a number of strategies to arrest immigrants.
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Officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will be descending on 10 major US cities on Sunday to try to round up roughly 2,000 families targeted for deportation.
The ICE raids come just weeks after President Donald Trump postponed a botched plan to carry out the raids after they encountered resistance from within ICE itself, according to The New York Times. The president on Friday confirmed the raids would occur.
This time, immigrants across the country are preparing for the worst, and lawyers and experts have urged them to know their rights if ICE comes knocking.
Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have prepared extensive webpages describing how to handle encounters with ICE agents, whether it's at home or in public.
The organization advises anyone stopped by ICE agents to be aware that they have the right to remain silent, the right to refuse consent to a search, the right to consult with a lawyer (though government-appointed lawyers are not provided to civil immigration detainees), and the right to refuse to answer questions about citizenship or immigration history.
Getty Images/John Moore
But experts also said that immigration authorities are strategic, and often find ways to work around commonly used defenses.
For instance, one of the main pieces of information advocates tout is the right for immigrants not to allow ICE agents into their homes, where they could be arrested.
ICE often rounds people up at their homes, workplaces, or other public spaces
If ICE officers arrive at a person's home, the person inside has no obligation to open the door unless the officer has a warrant signed by a judge. Though ICE officers in those situations frequently present "administrative warrants" without judge's signatures, such "warrants" don't provide any legal means to enter a person's home without their consent.
But Lily Axelrod, a Memphis-based immigration lawyer, said that defense isn't overly reassuring. She said that of course immigrants should educate themselves on their rights, but she warned that people shouldn't get complacent and assume they can easily dodge authorities.
"It's actually pretty rare that ICE knocks on the door is allowed in," Axelrod told INSIDER. "Instead, when they are looking to arrest a specific person at home, they often wait outside the house very early in the morning and stop the person walking to their car, or follow them in the car and arrest them as they get out at work."
She continued: "It's very difficult for people to walk away from this type of encounter with ICE and to refuse to identify themselves."
ICE has also developed an arsenal of other ways to track down people, according to Karla McKanders, a law professor and Immigration Practice Clinic director at Vanderbilt University.
"The administration has stated that they are going to workplaces and has tapped into state driver's license databases to locate people," McKanders said. "In the past, immigration raids have taken place at workplaces, which allows for rounding up mass numbers of undocumented immigrants versus going to individual places of residence. ICE, however, may utilize both of these methods."
Those prospects also raise the risk that ICE will sweep up other immigrants in the vicinity as "collateral arrests," even if they're not on the agency's list of targets. ICE also has a documented history of wrongly arresting US citizens. An April 2018 report from The Los Angeles Times found that ICE had released over 1,480 people from its custody since 2012 after investigating their citizenship claims.
But experts said that even the immigrants who are successfully arrested in this weekend's raids may have one last chance at avoiding deportation.
For instance, Homeland Security officials told The Times that the 2,000 families selected for deportation in Sunday's raids all have open deportation orders - in many cases after they failed to appear in court.
But Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University law professor, said immigrants may have received invalid or illegal deportation orders if ICE bungled something along the way, such as failing to notify immigrants at their correct addresses to warn them of their court dates.
"While the administration certainly has the right to deport people with legitimate final deportation orders, many of those orders may be subject to challenge," Yale-Loehr said.