Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what to expect if Immigration comes knocking at their door due to an expired visa/I-94, initiation of removal/deportation proceeding due to commission of a crime, or execution of a final order of removal/deportation. Also, Immigration can visit your job and detained you at your worksite. Recently, Immigration has engaged in numerous worksite raids at corporations that hire a large number of immigrants.
So, what are the DO’S and DON’TS if Immigration comes knocking at your door or job?
1. Be Respectful: Refer to the Immigration Officer as “Sir” or “Madam” or “Officer.” Though the Immigration Officer may not treat you with respect, you should show respect because the decisions regarding your detention, issuance of bond, or release initially rest in their hands.
2. Get the name of the Immigration Officer: ask the officer for his/her business card. If he/she is not willing to give you a business card, then casually ask for his/her name. Make a mental note or write down their name.
3. Ask the Immigration Officer where you are being taken: this is very important because in most states, Immigration has more than one detention center. As an immigration lawyer, I find it difficult to locate my clients when the family members cannot tell me where my client is being held. Sometimes, it takes 2-3 hours to call every detention center in the state to locate my client. Immigration is not always very helpful.
4. While being processed-ask to use the phone: the first place Immigration will take you is to an office where you will be fingerprinted and photograph. They will also ask you questions about your status and family member and create a “Record of Proceeding”. Also, they will serve you with a “Notice to Appear,” which initiates the removal/deportation process. Politely ask the Immigration officer if you can use the phone to call your family member to let them know you are safe.
5. Inform family member where you are & name of Immigration Officer: Once you get to speak with your family member, give them the name of the detention center you will be taken to and the name of the Immigration officer. This information will be helpful to the immigration attorney hired to represent you.
6. Do Not Sign any Documents: The Immigration Officer will present numerous documents to you for your signature. DO NOT SIGN ANY DOCUMENTS. Simply write, “Refuse to Sign” in the signature block. There have been numerous cases where immigrants sign documents not knowing that they are waiving a judicial hearing and choosing expedited removal/deportation. Once an attorney is retained to represent you, the attorney will review the documents and advise you of the legal ramifications of each document.
7. Do Not Submit to Threats by Immigration Officer: I have heard stories of Immigration Officers making threatening remarks such as “If you don’t sign these documents or cooperate, we will hold you here for 6-9 months” or “If you hire an attorney, we will deport you tomorrow”. Do not believe these statements. Removal/deportation is a process and takes at least 2-3 months with a final order or removal/deportation. Immigration Officers don’t like to see you hire an attorney because you will be advised of reliefs and waivers that will allow you to remain in the U.S. Additionally, they know that when an attorney is involved, they must be on their best behavior because the attorney will not hesitate to speak with their supervisor or file a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security.
8. Exercise Right for Bond Hearing: The Immigration Officer will ask you if you want a hearing to determine bond – always answer, “Yes”. Contact your family members and tell them to hire an immigration attorney to represent you at the hearing.
9. Be Patience: It is tough to be held in a detention center and to be away from your family. I always urge my clients to be patience with the process and don’t rush to give up and opt for removal/deportation without a hearing. In most cases, my clients that are held in detention are eligible for some type of relief from removal/deportation but we can only apply for such relief in immigration court. There is a 1-2 years backlog in the immigration court but when you are in detention center, your case can take 3-6 months.
10. Inform Immigration Officer of Special Dietary Needs or Medical Conditions: If you have special dietary or food needs (such as vegetarian), make sure you inform the immigration officer so they can make the proper arrangements for your food. Also, if you have any medical conditions and require daily medicine, advise the immigration officer so they can have your family bring your medicine or make arrangements for you to have your medicine at the detention facility.
Remember, at the end of the day, though Immigration Officers try to make you feel that they are trying to help you, they are more concerned with their job security and showing statistically that the U.S. is safer due to increased removal/deportation. The only person who has your best interest in mind is your immigration lawyer. Our office is available 24/7 to assist in these types of detention emergencies – if you get the voicemail message, simply hit “1” to be connected directly to the lawyer’s cell phone.