What to do if you are detained by ICE

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.

Finding an Immigration Attorney

Finding an Immigration Attorney

How to Choose an Immigration Attorney

The process of choosing an attorney is always a daunting task.  This is even truer in the field of Immigration Law.  Someone seeking to hire an attorney can often run into several problems that could potentially affect the outcome of their case.  These include Notaries posing as attorneys, inexperienced attorneys, attorneys who do not focus on immigration law, and bad attorneys who don’t care what happens to their clientele.

Ask for a State Bar Number or License

There are many companies who cater to Spanish-speaking clientele with a focus on tax, notary, translation, and personal loan services.  These companies often attempt to perform immigration services, as well.  They will even go as far as to say they have a “notario” or “abogado” on staff.  It is very important to research these claims carefully.  Ask for a state bar number for the attorney who will be performing the work.  Using the bar number you can see if that person is actually licensed to practice law and if they have any prior complaints against them.  We have seen many cases over the years where clients have signed up for what appears to be a great value only to find out the application was incorrectly completed, it was the wrong application, or the application was never completed at all.  Mistakes on immigration forms may not only lead to a denial of the petition or deportation, it can also negatively affect your future eligibility for any immigration benefit.  You can save yourself a lot of pain, time, and money by researching the person who plans to handle your case. 

Make Sure the Attorney is Experienced in Immigration Law

Another pitfall can be hiring an attorney who lacks experience.  On its face, Immigration Law can appear to be relatively easy compared to other areas of law.  For this reason, many new and inexperienced attorneys are drawn to this area of practice.  What they do not realize is that Immigration Law is one of the most complex areas of laws.  One small misstep can cost someone their residency or citizenship and possibly lead to deportation.  It is imperative that you hire an attorney with at least five years of experience in U.S. Immigration Law.

Find an Attorney Who Practices Immigration Law Exclusively

Another frequent problem we see is attorneys will practice immigration law on the side or as part of a larger practice.  The complexity and detail-oriented nature of immigration law means that it must be the primary focus of the attorney who is performing the work.  It is not an area of law that can be performed effectively on an infrequent basis.  An important part of experience is being familiar with the subtle and constantly-changing intricacies of the law.  

Research Your Attorney’s Past Work

Unfortunately. some of the most common problems with immigration attorneys are that they are overworked or they they simply don't care about the outcome of their client's cases.  Sadly, we have seen many cases where attorneys let their cases sit unfiled for months and even years, or never even file what the client contracted for. These attorneys may have bad organization skills or are juggling too many cases, but it all comes down to a blatant disregard for their clients and their future. Protect yourself and do your research before you hire an attorney. Ask family and friends for referrals.  Look the attorney up on AVVO.com and other attorney websites and read their client reviews. Look up their state bar number to see if they have any misconduct.  Finally, call and talk to the attorney.  You can find out a lot simply by speaking with the attorney directly.

NOTE: The information provided contains general information and is not legal advice. Every case is different and as such, intending applicants should contact a qualified immigration attorney to obtain accurate, case specific information.

To speak to an experienced and licensed immigration attorney who cares about you and your family, contact Isabel Cueva at 801-893-1485.