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Top 3 Rights to Know If Stopped by ICE

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is the federal agency tasked with enforcing US immigration laws. This means that individuals who are suspected of violating immigration laws may eventually get stopped by an ICE agent or officer.

ICE often conducts random roadside checkpoints and targeted raids to arrest and deport immigrants who do not have proper documentation. Frequently, ICE will obtain an arrest warrant, just like regular law enforcement, for a single individual or group of individuals. However, when any person is arrested, even by ICE, civil rights don't just vanish.

Below you'll find the three most important rights to keep in mind if you are stopped by an ICE agent or officer.

1. Right to Remain Silent

Although immigration enforcement actions are technically considered civil actions, a person can still assert their right to remain silent. However, if you plan to assert your right to remain silent, know that individuals are still generally required to identify themselves to law enforcement officers, and must verbally state their intention to remain silent.

As the famous Miranda warning advises, anything you say can be used against you. Unforunately, there are no Miranda warnings in immigration arrests, but that doesn't mean the right to remain silent doesn't exist. As such, the only person you should talk to is your own attorney.

2. Right to an Attorney

Like the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney must be verbalized. Once a person asserts their right to an attorney, questioning should stop. Unfortunately, unlike in the criminal justice system, the immigration system does not provide public defenders (unless they're provided by the state or private organizations, like in New York).

The ACLU advises that if a person does not have an attorney, they should request a list of free or low cost local attorneys. Additionally, an immigrant has the right to contact their country's consulate, or to have officers notify their consulate that they have been taken into ICE custody.

3. Right to Due Process

Every person charged with a violation of the law is entitled to due process before being punished or penalized. That means a person facing deportation has the right to an evidentiary hearing in court where they can present evidence. However, when a person is detained by ICE, frequently, agents, or officers, will attempt to get individuals to sign voluntary departure agreements, or stipulated removals. These agreements can prevent a person from challenging a deportation proceeding, and should be avoided until after consulting with an attorney as there could be permanent consequences.

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