Immigration and firm news

ICE Enforcement Actions Step Up

Over the last few days, there have been reports about ICE raids or “enforcement actions” in several states, but pinning down fact from rumor has been somewhat difficult.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association reports the following:

AILA has received information that ICE has once again commenced targeted enforcement actions by re-instituting “Operation Cross Check.” The operation is focused on three populations:

  1. Fugitives – Anyone with an outstanding order of removal;
  2. Individuals who reentered after they were deported. No need for criminal conviction related to reentry to be targeted;
  3. At large “criminal aliens” – Anyone with any criminal conviction.

It also appears that other individuals who are identified in the course of an Operation Crosscheck action against a specific person may also be picked up if they fall within the broader enforcement priorities outlined in the Executive Order. Note that the new priorities are so broad that any undocumented individual could be deemed a priority.

At this point it is unclear how many cities or localities are being targeted though anecdotal reports indicate Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin, and areas of Kansas may be implicated.

Note: Though enforcement priorities outlined in President Trump’s Executive Order on interior enforcement include anyone who was charged with an offense or committed an act that could be a chargeable offense, we understand that the current operation is focused on those who were convicted. However, any conviction (felonies, DUIs, non-violent offenses, etc.) could subject a person to enforcement.

ICE likes to issue press releases about their accomplishments, so one area to check is their website here, but of course, they will publish after a raid, not before, and they will publish about cases that make them look good.  Some reports indicate they are going not just to work sites, but courthouses, individual homes, and possibly outside schools and churches, but that has not been confirmed.  Keep in mind that there is a difference between enforcement and being removable.  Enforcement means the full range of options available from arrest, detention, initiating removal proceedings, carrying out removal orders – or not.  Removability means a person can be ordered removed only under the established grounds of removal in the immigration statute. Some enforcement actions that include arrest and detention do not guarantee that a person will be removed. There may be defenses or benefits from removal available, which is why it is good to consult counsel before anything happens or as soon as it does.

If you think you might fall into one of the categories above or on the Interior Enforcement Executive Order priority list, please contact your criminal and/or immigration counsel.  You should order (or they can help you order) certified copies of all court records from the criminal court, whether or not dismissed or expunged, and if you don’t have border, ICE or immigration court and other agency documents, your counsel can help you order Freedom of Information Act Requests to get your records.  These are all very important records needed by counsel to analyze your case and to prepare strategy, including the potential for post-conviction relief.  We are happy to make referrals to criminal and removal defense counsel. When dealing with criminal counsel, make sure you hire someone who understands the immigration consequences of crimes.

In the meantime, here are some recommendations:

  • Carry evidence in your wallet of living in the US for two years or more and any fee receipts for pending applications, green cards, work permits, DACA/work permits, TPS, interview notices or any other documents for status filings, upcoming immigration or USCIS hearings.  If you are married to or have spouses, parents or children with green cards, or citizenship, carry a copy of your relationship documents and their status. Keep extra copies of your documents at home, with a friend, or in a safety deposit box or securely online (password protected).  (see Border Enforcement Executive Order on increased use of expedited removal).
  • Always ask to see a judge and do not sign any paperwork accepting deportation or voluntary departure without a hearing.
  • Do not sign form I-407 abandoning your green card.
  • Always ask to consult a lawyer, and if you have one, carry the lawyer’s card.
  • Always ask for a bond hearing if detained. If you can, call your family, ask them to bring evidence of your ties to the community (work, school, church records, leases, mortgages, bank statements, etc.) Save money in case you need to post bond.
  • Make family safety plans to protect children in case you are detained (powers of attorney, guardianships, health care documents, etc. ) Who will you call if something happens? Who will pick up your children? Do you have important phone numbers memorized? Do you have copies of important documents? Make a family phone tree in case of emergency.
  • Always demand an interpreter if you do not speak English.
  • If detained, and you are afraid to return to your home country and may have a claim for asylum, mention this to every officer you encounter. Ask for a “credible” or “reasonable fear” interview or ask to file for asylum in the court.
  • If you think a family member might be detained, use this detainee locator website. The Northwest Detention Center is the primary facility in the northwest, located in Tacoma, WA, but when it fills up, people could be sent to remote parts of the country.
  • You should not open your door to immigration officers.  Ask for a warrant and have them slip it under the door. They often lie to people indicating they are looking for a neighbor, friend or relative. And, even if they really are, you could be caught up in their search.
  • You are not required to give an immigration officer any information.  Giving your name only may help your family or attorney to locate you if detained.See “Know your Rights” (multiple languages) from the ACLU. See this pamphlet explaining more detail about different kinds of warrants and other suggestions.
  • Showing a matricula to any officer can be the basis for reasonable suspicion that you are undocumented. The government has the burden of proof to show alienage and removability. If you have not applied for a State ID or license, please apply now if eligible.
  • If you have been a victim of a crime, you SHOULD report it to the police, including domestic abuse.
  • If you have been in the USA for 10 years, make a file to keep on hand with evidence of your living in the USA for that long (e.g., leases, mortgages, rent payment receipts, school, work, church, community service records, tax returns, children’s birth certificates, medical bills, bank statements.)
  • If you fear return to your country because of past or future persecution, keep a file containing your evidence to support your fears (e.g., letters from family members abroad, news clippings, medical records, police reports, etc.) The last three items above will be useful if you end up in removal proceedings and for bond hearings.
  • Stay out of trouble – don’t drink and drive, don’t have anything to do with pot in states where it’s legal, don’t hang out with shady characters. Do good deeds and community service.
  • If you have never consulted a lawyer about your immigration status, or it’s been a few years since you did, consult one now to help you analyze whether you have any options now or to help you make back up plans.