By Jeremy B. Love, Immigration Attorney
January 5, 2016
 
Officials at Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently confirmed that they plan to conduct raids to apprehend and deport hundreds of people as early as January.  Several news sources have reported on this issue, and I wanted to clear up who is affected and how to protect yourself from these raids.
 
Who is affected?
ICE plans to target undocumented immigrants who received orders of removal or arrived in the US without status since January 1, 2014.  This announcement does not affect those who are currently in the process to obtain immigration status through a valid, pending application, but it does affect those who are eligible but have not yet sought an immigration benefit with USCIS or the Immigration Court.
Many of those who will be targeted are immigrants who fled violence in Central America and arrived in the US within the last two years.  During that time there was an increase in immigration from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
ICE seems to be trying to discourage others from attempting to enter the US and also clear space in immigration detention facilities. In doing so, ICE is threatening to return 100,000 families to worse persecution or even death.
 
While ICE plans to target those who entered the US or have removal orders since January 1, 2014, others may be affected as well.  During a raid, anyone who ICE encounters that is undocumented could be detained and eventually removed.
What can you do now?
Speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your case and immigration options that may be available to you. 
For example, if you are under the age of 18 and do not have at least one parent with you, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  Additionally, if you have been in the US for less than a year and have fear of persecution in your home country, Asylum may be an option.
There are several other forms of immigration relief that may be available and only an experienced immigration attorney or BIA accredited representative is qualified to evaluate your particular case.
I also recommend putting together an emergency plan which includes the phone number of your immigration attorney and a properly prepared power of attorney.  In case you are detained, a power of attorney would allow someone you trust to make decisions regarding your children, property and business.
If you have already received a removal order and are detained by ICE, then you will not have a lot of time before ICE seeks to have you returned to your country of origin.  Usually, you will not be afforded the opportunity to go to immigration court again. So, have your emergency plan ready.
What can you do if ICE comes to your home?
Do not answer the door. Always ask to see a warrant. The ICE officer can slip the warrant under the door for you to review.
Do not answer any questions.  Even if ICE has a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to have your attorney present during any questioning.
Remember that everyone in this country has rights, and it is important to use your rights to protect yourself from ICE raids.  Those rights include basic liberties such as not answering questions without an attorney to more complex ones such as pursuing your available immigration options.