Many people do not realize that being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not the end of their immigration case. It is only the beginning. Without realizing it, most people who are detained by Immigration are eligible for relief from deportation. This can include Asylum, Cancellation of Removal, and Prosecutorial Discretion. Unfortunately, ICE officers often pressure undocumented immigrants into signing documents agreeing to their own deportations.
Do not sign any document that you do not completely understand. There have been reported cases of officials asking immigrants to sign forms claiming it will allow them to see their loved ones or even release their personal effects. However, unknowingly, they have signed an agreed order of deportation. Always ask to have your documents translated.
Demand to see an immigration judge. Even if you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to go before a judge before you are removed from the United States. Demand that right. Once you are before an immigration judge, you can request bond, ask for time to find an attorney, and learn if you are eligible for relief from deportation.
If you are detained pending a criminal charge, find a good criminal defense attorney. Our office works closely with criminal defense attorneys to assist in making the best choices for a client’s immigration case. Simply pleading guilty to most felonies and many misdemeanor charges can lead to serious immigration consequences, including the loss of your ability to fight in immigration court.
Tell your officer of any fears to return to your home country. If you are genuinely afraid to return to your country of origin because of racial, religious, or political persecution, you may qualify for asylum or withholding of removal. This can allow you to remain in the United States with protected status and a work permit.
Avoid contact with ICE. This means remaining a law-abiding citizen whenever possible. Many people come into contact with ICE after DUI arrests. Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you must drive without a license, always carry identification from your home country including passports and “matricula” cards. When the police cannot identify you, they will detain you.
You do not have to allow ICE into your home without a warrant. If ICE agents or officers come to your home, you do not have to let them in without a warrant. You do not have to open or answer the door. Remain inside and wait for them to leave. ICE personnel are generally very obviously labeled as such. They drive government-issued SUVs. It is not common for ICE to seek out undocumented immigrants who do not have prior orders of deportation or extensive criminal problems.