Preparing for ICE Raids Part 1: What to Do If ICE Comes

Image courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The conversations in immigrant households are turning to ICE raids. Ever since raids took place nationally in February, the fear in the community is palpable. Over the next several weeks, I will publish a series of articles addressing the questions that we keep hearing.

The most common question that I get is whether raids are going on now. The answer is that they are occurring, but they are not what many people think they are. The raids going on are relatively small-scale. Most of them appear to occur at immigrants homes and they typically involve a person who already has a deportation order being arrested by ICE. So far, at least 13 people have been arrested by ICE on Long Island, according to Newsday. All of them appear to have been immigrants with deportation orders or criminal issues. None were arrested in “workplace raids” or “traffic stops.”

While the raids so far have frightened people, they have actually resulted in relatively few arrests. As Sara pointed out last week, the arrests are not taking place at schools, health clinics or churches. These are all classified as “sensitive locations” and raids will not take place at them in most cases.

Although the vast majority of those arrested seem to be people who were being targeted by ICE, there were some people arrested because they happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. In these cases, an immigrant happened to be at the house of someone being arrested. ICE agents in these situations will often ask others in the house questions to determine if they can also be arrested.

In some cases, ICE claims, they asked people if they were undocumented and the person answered “Yes.” In others, the immigrant was asked about gang involvement and ICE says that the immigrant said they had been involved in a gang. ICE said that these answers led to the immigrants being detained.

We don’t know whether ICE is telling the truth about this, and in at least one case, an arrested immigrant says that ICE is lying when it says that he admitted to having been a gang member. But one thing to take away from the first round of raids is that undocumented immigrants confronted by ICE should stand on their Constitutional right to not answer ICE’s questions. Lying is not an option, but remaining silent is an advisable course of action.

If ICE comes to your door, the best thing to do is to refuse to open the door. ICE will lie to try to get in, but they will generally only enter if the immigrant opens the door or if they have a warrant to enter. If they have a warrant, they may batter the door in. If you choose to open the door, even just to speak to them, ICE will push past you and later claim that you gave them permission to enter.

Because refusing to let ICE enter or refusing to talk to ICE will involve everyone in a household acting together, it is vital that your household meets to come up with a plan. There have been situations where an immigrant at the front door of a house has refused to let ICE in, but someone else let ICE in the back door. Everyone has to be on the same page or ICE will get in.

Next week I will discuss how people facing detention by ICE can plan for their children’s safety.

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