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How To Prepare For An Interaction With ICE (Even If You Are A US Citizen!)

By Michael Brooks-Jimenez

Unfortunately, the last few months have reminded immigrants, even naturalized U.S. citizens, that they were not born in the United States and do not enjoy the same priviliges as natural-born citizen. If you are an undocumented immigrant, a visa holder, a lawful permanent resident, or a naturalized U.S. citizen, there are steps we recommend you take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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Across the country, a wave of anti-immigration activity by the Trump administration has resulted in countless reports of individuals with legal status being detained by ICE. Below are some precautions and recommended actions for individuals of each of the following groups:

Undocumented Immigrants with 10 years in the United States that Have Children

If you have been in the United States for more than 10 years and do not have a conviction on your record, you are eligible for Cancellation of Removal and release on bond.

Do not wait for tragedy to strike. You can start preparing the paperwork you will need to secure a bond and to prove your case. Gather, organize, and keep on file: 

  • proof of stay for the time you spent in the United States (tax returns, bank statements, medical records, etc);
  • proof of clean criminal record;
  • proof of good moral character (affidavits from friends, family, employers, and/or church leadership stating you are a person of good character);
  • proof of hardship (evidence documenting that a relative who has status in the United States
    will suffer extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship as a result of your removal).

Undocumented Immigrants in the US for More Than 2 Years

If you are an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States for more than two years, we recommend you carry with you at all times evidence that you have been present for at least two years.

Examples of evidence that you may want to have are utility bills, bank statements, mail or any other documentation with your name dating back two years. Do NOT use information under a false identity or carry around false documents, as these are prosecutable offenses.

Keep this information in an accessible place with you at all times, as well as photocopies of all the evidence on file at home.

Undocumented Immigrants in the US for Less Than 2 Years

Unfortunately, if you are undocumented and have been residing in the United States for less than two years, the bad news is that you will need a plan in place for what will happen to your family and belongings if you are detained by ICE and unable to return home.

You may want to look into preparing a power of attorney. We also recommend you educate your relatives and friends on how to look up names on the ICE detainee website in case they cannot contact you and suspect you have been detained by ICE. In these type of cases, ICE and CBP typically will not release you on bond.

If you have a fear of returning to your home country and think you may qualify for a U-Visa or asylum, you will need to contact an immigration attorney as soon as you are detained.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your options and prepare a power of attorney

Undocumented Immigrants with Prior Deportation Orders

If you have a prior deportation order and have returned to the United States, you are now subject to prosecution by the federal government for the crime of reentry after deportation.

President Trump has ordered an increase in the number of people charged with this crime. Depending on the reason you were deported, you can spend up to five years in federal prison for reentering the US.

If you have a deportation order and never left, we recommend you speak to an immigration attorney and seek advice about your options to reopen your deportation case immediately.

Non-US Citizens Who Have a Criminal Conviction or Have Been Arrested

(Permanent Residents, Visa Holders, and Undocumented Immigrants)

If you are a non-US Citizen and you have a criminal conviction or were arrested for a crime, you will need a plan in place for what will happen to your family and belongings if you are detained or deported.

Under the recent DHS memos, ICE has orders to detain people in this category, and has only released very few individuals on bond. If you have relief from removal, you are eligible for bond, but, depending on where you are, you may not be released.

Lawfully Present Nonimmigrants

(DACA, U-Visa, EADs, Visitors, Students, H1Bs, etc.)

If you are a lawfully present nonimmigrant, we urge you to carry with you at all times a photocopy of your Employment Authorization Document, I-94 card, passport with entry stamp, or other proof of lawful presence.

We recommend that you do NOT carry the original with you, since replacing these documents can often be troublesome and costly. Instead, keep the original in a safe place at home and carry a copy with you in your wallet, purse, car, etc.

Lawful Permanent Residents

Most people don't know this, but, according to federal law, anyone who is NOT a US Citizen is required to carry with them at all times evidence of their lawful status (see 8 USC 1304(e)).

Similarly, we recommend you carry a photocopy of your Lawful Permanent Residents card, also known as a green card, with you at all times. Keep the original card in a safe place at home.

As a reminder, you should renew your green card a full 6 months before expiration. If your green card has already expired, we urge you to contact an immigration attorney immediately to begin the renewal process. And, if you are eligible, you should start the naturalization process as soon as possible.

Naturalized U.S. Citizens

If you are a naturalized citizen and are traveling abroad or within 100 miles of any US border, we strongly recommend carrying with you your US passport, passport card, or a photocopy of your naturalization certificate.

Due to the unpredictability of the current situation, we also recommend keeping a photocopy of these documents in a safe place at your home, so that if necessary, someone will have access to it.

Preparing is Protecting

Although no one wants to imagine being detained or deported, it is vital to prepare yourself and your family for any immigration scenario that may arise.

Do your research now into immigration attorneys that you can call in a moment’s notice. Keep their contact information on-hand for easy access and with copies of your immigration files. Or, better yet, visit a trusted immigration attorney now and see what options you may have available to you.

If you'd like to set up a consultation with a member of our legal office, give us call at 405-272-9393 or request a consultation online.

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