By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Lorena Larios Shah
There is a growing fear among undocumented immigrants of being arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents while at work. This fear is growing as ICE continues to aggressively conduct raids in California and across the nation. ICE has recently taken a record number of individuals into custody leaving children without their parents or a family without an income earner. The purpose of this article is to provide valuable information regarding the steps a detainee or a detainee’s family should take if a loved one is detained by ICE.
An undocumented immigrant has the right to not volunteer any information about his/her immigration status. This includes not volunteering information regarding place of birth or nationality. Remember, everything a person says can be used against them in deportation proceedings. A detainee should never lie to an ICE agent and must never make false claims of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status. Lying about an immigration status carries serious immigration consequences.
Detainees have the right to not sign any statements or documents. Many people don’t realize that they may be giving up their right to a hearing before an immigration judge, or worse yet they may be signing their own voluntary departure order. Most importantly, a detained immigrant has the right to speak to an attorney. Detainees have the right to make a phone call. It is strongly recommended that undocumented immigrants carry the phone number of a reputable immigration attorney at all times in case of this type of an emergency.
Detained individuals are taken to a temporary processing station where he/she may be fingerprinted and interviewed. Remember, a detainee has the right to a phone call and the right to not answer any questions without first consulting an immigration lawyer. After being processed, a person is generally issued an alien registration number “A number.” It is very important to memorize this number and if possible, the name of the ICE agent in charge of processing the detainee and the location of the processing station. This is important because an experienced immigration lawyer can contact the holding place and speak with the ICE agent in charge of processing an individual. The lawyer can request status of the case or in some situations can negotiate the release of the detainee with or without bond. Family members can also learn the location of their loved one if they have the full name and “A number” ready. If a detainee is given legal documents, it is important to always keep those documents with him or her. These documents will be very important to an immigration lawyer.
There is no way to know when and where a raid will happen, but it is important to discuss this possibility with family to develop a plan. Undocumented immigrants and their family should have the name and number of an immigration attorney to contact in case of such emergency. Detained immigrants should hire a lawyer who specializes in immigration law, specifically in deportation/removal proceedings.