In any interaction with law or immigration enforcement, the most important practices to remember are:
- Stay calm
- Stay silent (don’t mention where you were born or how you entered the US)
- Record details and names
- Do NOT run away
- Ask to speak to your lawyer before signing any documents or answering any questions
- If you do speak, do not lie.
Your home carries with it special protections that public spaces do not. Understanding what those are (and aren’t) can help you navigate stressful encounters with immigration enforcement on your doorstep, and potentially avoid harm.
If ICE comes to your door
If ICE knocks on the front door of your home or apartment and asks to enter, do not open the door. ICE is only allowed to enter if they have a valid judicial search or arrest warrant with your correct name and/or address, signed by a judge.
Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to your front window so you can examine it. ICE will usually have a warrant of deportation or removal, which is signed by an immigration official, not a judge, and does NOT give them permission to enter the home even if you or another occupant’s name is on it, unless you give them permission. If this is the only warrant they provide, you should NOT open the door.
Although opening the door does not mean that you are giving them permission to enter our home, officers may say later that you did.
If the officer refuses to show you their warrant, tell them that because they have not demonstrated that they have a valid warrant, you are exercising your constitutional right and will not open the door to them.
In order for a search warrant to be valid, it must meet the following criteria:
- Must be signed by a judge – NOT an immigration official
- Must contain the address of the home to be searched
- Must describe the area to be searched
You have the same rights in an apartment as you do in a house. ICE cannot force a landlord to open your front door if you refuse because they do not have a valid warrant.
If ICE has a valid warrant or enters your home without permission
- Stay calm and call an attorney right away.
- Don’t say anything to them except “I have the right to remain silent.”
- Do not sign any papers. You do not have to sign anything without your lawyer there.
- Record the incident on a phone or camera, and take notes of the officer’s badge number, agency, and full name, as well as the details of everything that happens.
- If you are asked to stop recording, it is advisable that you comply to limit escalating the situation. Instead, you can take mental notes and write them down immediately after the encounter.
- If you are detained and have U.S. citizen children who are minors, consider telling the officers this detail, as it could impact whether or not they choose to detain you. However, if your children are undocumented, you may not want to mention them in case ICE decides to detain them as well.