Recent threats by federal officials of mass immigration raids have exacerbated feelings of fear and uncertainty that many undocumented individuals and mixed status families face living in the U.S. As ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids usually occur without notice, most people are unable to prepare in advance for these interactions. However, families that may be affected by these raids can take action, learn about their rights, and prepare for a potential visit from ICE officials.
At a recent bilingual Facebook Live broadcast, ACLU of Texas communications coordinator, Imelda Mejia, interviewed ACLU of Texas senior staff attorney, Edgar Saldivar, about what you should know if ICE officials come to your home and how to ensure that your basic rights are protected.
IMELDA MEJIA, HOST (ACLU of Texas): What should people do during a home raid?
EDGAR SALDIVAR (ACLU of Texas): The most important thing to do is to remain calm. It’s important for people to know that any kind of raid or any kind of action by law enforcement is a very stressful situation. It’s a situation where one may not be thinking clearly because you’re scared or nervous. But remaining calm is going to be the most important thing to do because it will allow you to exercise your basic constitutional rights.
Among those rights is the right to ask for a warrant before any agent can enter your home. You have the right to refuse entry unless an agent can show you a warrant, which is a document just like this one signed by a judge indicating the person who they are searching for and the location. If any of this information is incorrect, or it’s missing, or it’s not signed by a judge, or it says its signed by an ICE agent who is not a judge, then this is not valid – they are not allowed to enter without permission.
IMELDA: And people can ask for this warrant either by asking the agents to show it through the window or asking them to put it underneath a door so that the individual doesn’t have to open the door. But if the ICE agent does not want to provide this documentation, what then can the individual do?
EDGAR: You can verbalize and express that you do not consent to the entry into your home. You can say that they do not have permission, that you’re refusing to open the door, and that they should leave. If they say that they have a warrant, let them show it to you; slip it under the door, as Imelda said, maybe show it through a window...but do not open the door. Once you open the door, you allow them to come into your house and search the whole house. They can arrest more than just the person that they’re looking for on [the warrant].
IMELDA: And what should the individual do if the agent forcefully enters the home?
EDGAR: First of all, you should never resist. What you can do is you can take pictures, you can take a video of the incident. If you’re the one being arrested, have another family member record it. We actually have an app that you can download called MigraCam [which] you can download for free. It’s easy to download onto your phone, and that allows you to record the interactions, those interactions get saved and sent automatically to three people who you designate to receive this information. That way either a family member or a friend knows what’s going on, knows where you’re going, knows what’s happening.
The other thing you should always do is find a way to let your family members know how to contact you or what to do with [children] that may remain in school or at home; have a game plan in preparation for these raids.
IMELDA: That’s a great way to plan ahead in case you are arrested. Is there any other information or resources that people can use if they have any more questions that come up later?
EDGAR: We also have an Immigrant Rights Hotline at 1-833-HOU-IMMI. You can ask questions about your rights, you can ask questions about immigration law. You will be connected to an attorney that can help you or answer questions. But this is an important hotline available for free at your convenience if you have additional questions.
IMELDA: Please remember, you do have rights, and we have all of this information on our website at aclutx.org. MigraCam is available in both English and Spanish. The Immigrant Rights Hotline is available in both English and Spanish. And our app, MigraCam, has some Know Your Rights information included to help you be prepared just in case there is a family member that’s involved in an ICE raid.