ICE raids: 10 myths and suggestions

By January 15, 2016Counselor

Legal service providers (myself included), community based organizations, elected officials and law enforcement agencies are being inundated by phone calls by people terrified by the rumors and false stories being circulated by friends, family, scammers, and news media. To combat the misinformation I’ve compiled a list of 10 myths and suggestions to help people sift through the misinformation and to learn how to cope with situations in which they or their loved ones actually do find themselves in an encounter with ICE. Here we go:

  1. There are no confirmed raids occurring in New York State (or New Jersey, or the northeast generally).
  1. This is not to say that NO enforcement is being taken in New York—just that only STANDARD enforcement operations seem to be taking in New York at the moment.
  1. A telltale sign of a false rumor is the description of ICE vehicles. ICE does not generally use trucks or marked cars, except for those to transport detainees to court appearances and other places.  The marked vehicles generally used by the Department of Homeland Security belong to the Federal Protective Service, which protects buildings, or CBP, which focuses on ports or entry (airports and the border), but NOT on interior enforcement. Arrests are usually conducted by individual ICE officers in unmarked cars.
  1. Another sign of a false story are the focus on “ICE raids.” ICE does not generally carry out “raids”. Current enforcement priorities do not focus on picking up as many people as possible; in fact, they are the opposite. The three enforcement priorities for ICE all focus on targeting individuals considered to be ‘fugitives’ or otherwise threats to public safety. It is possible that, during an enforcement action, a family members or other co-habitant of a targeted individual may be arrested as well, but only incidentally.
  1. Stories involving enforcement at schools or churches are very likely false. ICE policy generally prevents agents from arrest, questioning, or searching people in “sensitive locations” such as schools, churches, hospitals, funerals, weddings, public religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations—unless there is a threat involving national security, imminent harm, or terrorism.
  1. ICE is not picking targeting individuals simply because they are undocumented or out of status. The three ICE priorities focus on: individuals who are a threat to national security; people who were initially apprehended while trying to enter the U.S.; gang members; people convicted of felonies, other serious crimes, or multiple misdemeanors; people who have unlawfully entered the U.S. since 2014; people who have removal (deportation orders) since 2014; and people who have significantly abused the visa waiver program.
  1. For those interested in knowing what their rights when interacting with ICE, there are many good materials in circulation, including: the Immigrant Defense Project’s “Know Your Rights with ICE” (English and Spanish); the New York Civil Liberties Union’s “What to Do if You’re Stopped by Immigration Offices” (English and Spanish); the National Immigration Law Center’s “Immigration Raids Alert” (English and Spanish); United We DREAM’s Deportation Defense Card and Know Your Rights Resources (English and Spanish); and Atlas DIY’s Know Your Rights” one-pager in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.
  1. Often the best preparation may be to consult with a TRUSTED lawyer in order to find out what immigration benefits that you are and are not eligible for, and what to do in the event you are detained.
  1. If someone you know is detained, call the hotline operated by the Office for New Americans and Catholic Charities for a referral to free legal service providers at 1-800-566-763
  1. Don’t pay attention to the news; just remember 1-9.