Two reports over the weekend have made it clear that if anything is changing within the Obama administration, it is getting worse for immigrants.
First, just in time for Christmas, the Obama administration is planning ICE raids, targeting Central American families who have final orders of removal. This is despite the fact that huge numbers of these immigrants were ordered removed “in absentia” because they weren’t made aware of the time and date of their hearings, and of the ones who make it to court (at least for the children) almost half are unrepresented by counsel.
Second, a report that received less fanfare but is equally disturbing: the Administration is planning to house immigrant children at Hollomon Airforce Base in New Mexico.
Both moves continue the administration’s “deterrence” immigration policy: be brutal to a few to dissuade others from coming to the United States. And yet these moves come after a Federal judge concluded in August that the “deterrence” immigration policy violates federal law and ordered the government to release children who were detained in jails for long periods of time.
We don’t have complete information yet, but the newspaper accounts say that ICE will be seeking to find and remove immigrants who received orders of removal after January 1, 2014. If a person is still in immigration court or has appealed their order of removal to the BIA, then the government can’t yet deport them.
HOW TO RESPOND TO AN ICE RAID
Knowing that ICE is coming, it’s important to understand what they are allowed to do (and what they’re not allowed to do).
Our friends at Benach Ragland LLP have published a list of helpful tips for responding to an ICE raid:
DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. ASK TO SEE A WARRANT. ICE may not enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge. You do not need to open the door. You do not need to answer questions. ICE needs a warrant to enter your home. Do not open the door. Ask for the warrant to be slipped under the door. If they have a warrant that allows them to search your property, you must let them in, but you do not have to speak.
DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS, EVEN YOUR NAME. You have a right not to answer questions from ICE. Tell them that you want to speak with a lawyer, even if you do not have one. Many organizations visit with immigrants in detention and can arrange for pro bono (free) counsel. That lawyer will be happy that you said nothing.
DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. Again, tell them that you want to speak to a lawyer.
If ICE arrests you in a ICE raid:
Continue to follow the advice above of not speaking to them and asking for a lawyer.
MAKE A PHONE CALL. If you are arrested, you have a right to make a phone call. Call family. Call a lawyer. Tell people where you are and who is holding you.
TALK TO A LAWYER. A lawyer can evaluate whether there is a valid order of removal against you. The lawyer can also advise whether there were flaws in your removal proceedings and whether the order of removal can be challenged. The law allows for individuals to file motions to reopen their removal proceedings. While there are time limits to the filing of motions to reopen, there are circumstances in which a motion to reopen can be considered at any time. A lawyer can also file for a stay of removal from the immigration courts or the Board of Immigration Appeals. The entry of a stay prohibits ICE from removing you. If a removal order was entered against you in absentia and you did not receive notice of the hearing, the filing of a motion to reopen will automatically stay removal. A lawyer can also determine whether there is a basis to seek a stay from ICE as well.
There are also helpful overviews of your rights here in English and in Spanish.
As outlined above, a number of these orders of removal were entered when an immigrant wasn’t given the time, date, or place of their hearings. An immigrant with an order of removal still has the right to appeal (within 30 days) or to move to reopen the case. Speaking with a lawyer about your immigration case before an ICE agent is at your door is far better than waiting until they’ve arrived.
HOW ELSE CAN YOU HELP?
Aside from taking care of your own business, we should all be leaning on our Congressional representatives and on the President to stop this foolishness. “Deterrence” is not an immigration policy, and it doesn’t justify doing what this Administration is doing to the children imprisoned at places like Dilley, Karnes, and T. Don Hutto. Write to your Congressperson. Write to the president. Tell them we expected better when the President said he would focus his efforts on “felons not families.”