Until a criminal warrant is obtained by immigration officers, they may not get access or be able to enter your home without you consent. A warrant is a written official order/document that gives legal permission for a government agency to search for or detain someone who broke the law. It must be issued by a judge in order for it to be valid. There are two types of warrants:
An arrest warrant:
This is issued by a judge after the government agency requesting the arrest warrant has established probable cause that the individual broke the law. This then gives permission to the law enforcement agency to arrest someone.
A search warrant:
This is also issued by a judge giving permission to a law enforcement officer to search a location, item, or thing for the purpose of looking for evidence of a crime.
In order for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest you in your home, they must have a warrant to enter the house if you do not open the door for them to enter, or grant them permission to enter your home. Therefore, if ICE comes to your door, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR UNLESS THEY SHOW YOU AN ARREST WARRANT SIGNED BY A JUDGE AUTHORIZING THEM TO ENTER YOUR HOUSE TO ARREST YOU OR SOMEONE IN THE HOME. Follow these steps if ICE or other Department of Homeland Security Officer come knocking on your door:
- If an officer is knocking at your door, stay calm, do not open the door, and check through the spyglass to see if he or she is with anyone. Then, you have to ask the officer to identify himself or herself and ask if he or she has come with anyone. Some questions you might ask include “Who are you with?” or “What agency are you with?”. Many times the officers may be wearing normal clothing and have a badge displayed indicating they are from ICE or other agency that may not be easily visible.
- The officer might respond to your question saying he or she is with the “Department of Homeland Security”, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement”, “ICE, or some other government agency. Nevertheless, still do not open your door. Ask the officer if he has a warrant.
- If the officers say yes, ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door so you can crosscheck it.
- You want to ensure that the warrant related to you or someone living in the house. If your name or the name of someone living in the house is not listed in the warrant, then check the address of the warrant and ensure that the address is your address. Also check to see if the warrant is signed. It must be signed by a judge in order to be valid. Make sure that the signature is not from another officer or supervisor. It must be a judge.
NOTE: Normally, the warrant will be written in English. If you do not understand what is written on it, you could call some other person in your home to help you figure it out or translate it to you. Just make sure to let the officer know that you are getting a translator to help you understand the papers they provided to you.
- After crosschecking, If either your name or someone living in the address’s name is not on the warrant, or the address is not correct on the warrant, or there are no signatures on the warrant authorizing the issuance of the warrant, tell the officer that the information on the warrant is not correct or incomplete. Do not open the door.
- On the other hand, If it was actually issued by a court and authorizes that they search your house, then you should let the officer into your house.
- While crosschecking this document, you have to be very keen. While checking, if you notice that this document was issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) but not a court, you have every right not to let the officer into your house. Also, if the warrant rather authorizes your arrest and not a search of your house, you should go outside and meet the office and not letting them search you home. This is very crucial because if you live with other people in the house who do not have proper documents or immigration problems, the officer might get in and can ask questions of anyone else who is there too.
- Now, if you haven’t spoken to this officer (still when your doors are closed), you don’t have to answer any questions. Tell the officers that you are not going to answer any questions unless your attorney is present and request to have your attorney present. DO NOT MAKE ANY STATEMENTS TO THE ARRESTING OFFICER. You have the right to remain silent and not provide any information to the officers. They can not force you to talk to them. DO NOT SIGN ANY PAPERS. Ensure that you do now have any papers on you when you present yourself for arrest either. If they find any information, documents, or items on you, they may be able to use them against you.
NOTE: It is important to understand that If the officer asks you for permission to come into your home and you agree, then you are allowing him access to your home and he does not need a warrant. That is why it is important to never grant any agency access to your home.
- To recap, the best thing to do if an officer come to your house requesting that you open the door is to:
- Ask them to identify themselves
- Ask to see the warrant
- Check the warrant for your name or other person’s name that live in the house
- Check to see the address on the warrant to verify that it is your house
- Check to see if the warrant was signed by a judge
If verified your name, address and proper signature, then empty your belonging or give them to a family member and you then exit the house. Do not let them in.
Once detained by them, tell them you will not make any statements without your attorney present and request to talk to your attorney and have them present.
Do not answer any question! Wait to talk to your attorney before talking to anyone.
NOTE: No officer is allowed to influence or force you to accept that he gets into your home. A clear example to this is when your house is all surrounded by the corps, flashing their lights at your home, and the officer holding a gun at your door asking you to open the door. If you are afraid and let the officer into your home due to fear, the court would probably not consider this to be valid consent.
How can I protect myself if Immigration comes to my house?
If you find out that immigration is asking information about you from your jobsite, then definitely you should be sure that they will show up at your house sooner or later. So in such situations, you have to do the following;
- Make sure the person you trust the most knows about where you are and in cases of emergency, make sure you know how to reach that person especially if you have been detained by immigration.
- Another very important note is to make sure that you and all your family members have the phone numbers of your immigration attorney very close to the home phone so that they can call the attorney in the case where you are detained.
- Also, your important documents such as your birth certificate, and any immigration papers should be kept at the home with someone you trust. Do not give them to the officer unless they have a search warrant for those documents.