What should an undocumented immigrant in Idaho do if confronted by ICE?

By Joseph G. Ballstaedt

Contrary to what you may believe, if you are an undocumented immigrant living in Idaho, you have many substantial rights under the United States constitution. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) wants you to understand these rights. It has posted on the Internet important information in “Know Your Rights Handouts” that explain what you should do if you have an encounter with officers from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This blog post summarizes the information in these handouts and explains how to act if ICE visits you at your home or work here in Idaho, or if an ICE official stops you in a public space in Idaho.

You Don’t Have to Open Your Door

Just as you don’t have to open your home to a neighbor, a stranger, or an unwelcome acquaintance, you don’t have to welcome into your home an ICE officer unless he or she has a valid search warrant that is signed by a judge. There is a difference between an ICE deportation warrant and a search warrant. Without a search warrant, ICE does not have the right to enter your home unless you give them permission to do so. To ensure ICE has the proper warrant, ask the officer to slide the warrant under the door, hold it up to a window, or otherwise allow you to inspect it. Also, if your correct name and address isn’t on the warrant, it is probably invalid. And even if you decide to speak with the officer, remember that you can do so without opening the door. You can talk through the door, or you can step outside and close the door, protecting anyone inside the home from contact with the ICE officers.

Remain Calm

If you have an encounter with ICE, be calm (easier said than done). Whether at home, at work, or in a public space, do not panic and certainly do not run away. If you have an encounter with ICE at work, for example, and if you are stressed and uncomfortable, calmly walk to an exit. Just because an officer stops you does not mean that you will be detained or need to stay with the officer. Ask if you can leave.

You Can Remain Silent

If ICE authorities begin asking you questions, do not feel obligated to respond. You have the right to remain silent. Yes, you do not have to say a word. If you are asked if you are a United States citizen, you can say nothing. If you are asked if where you were born, you can say nothing. Also, if the ICE officers ask you to provide identification, you don’t have to. You could potentially do yourself a great disservice by saying anything at all or complying with requests to produce identification. If you do choose to talk or respond to various requests, do not lie and do not produce false identification. If you choose to remain silent, it is a good idea to state this desire out loud and clearly.

You Can Refuse a Search.

If you are stopped by ICE officers in public, and they want to question and search you but do not arrest you, in addition to remaining silent, you can refuse to be searched. All an officer can likely legally do is conduct what is known as a general “pat down,” but only if he or she suspects you are carrying a weapon.

You Have a Right to a Lawyer

Just as in the criminal context, you have the right to speak to an attorney. If ICE authorities ultimately decide to detain you or take you into custody, this right must be respected, even if you don’t currently have an attorney. If you do have an attorney and have a signed Form G-28 that shows you have an attorney, present the form to the ICE officer. Those who do not have an immigration attorney can ask for a list of pro bono attorneys, lawyers who will help you without requesting payment. In addition to your right to talk with a lawyer, you have the right to contact your consulate, who may help you locate an attorney who can represent you. Until you have had the opportunity to talk with a lawyer, remember that you don’t have to sign any paperwork. Be careful if you sign anything before discussing it with an attorney. Make sure you understand the contents and impact of signing.


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