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A Guide To Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

During his campaign, President Donald Trump made it clear he would build a wall on the country’s southern border, introduce the End Illegal Immigration Act, and terminate prior executive orders that help undocumented immigrants, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Recently, it seems that he is following through on these promises. Undocumented immigrants have found themselves increasingly at risk in places where they were safe under the Obama administration and have faced an overall increase in arrests.

What’s more, some of these arrests have blatantly endangered the individuals targeted. For example, the El Paso Times reported on Feb. 15 that a domestic violence victim was arrested in court while trying to obtain a protective order against her abuser. The tip may have come from her abuser after he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier during the week.

Given this climate, it’s crucial that undocumented immigrants are aware of the rights to which they are entitled when they encounter police officers or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. In fact, understanding how to deal with ICE officials and local police officers could save the lives of many (especially young) undocumented individuals.

  1. School

“ICE does not conduct enforcement at sensitive locations,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told WRAL News on Feb. 25, 2016. Undocumented immigrants cannot be arrested at locations such as all religious sites, hospitals, and schools, according to Cox.

And yet, according to The Atlantic, ICE has failed to follow these guidelines and has previously apprehended undocumented immigrants on the way to or outside of schools. Take, for example, 19-year-old Wildin “David” Guillen Acosta, who was apprehended by ICE officials on his way to school in North Carolina in January of 2016, according to WRAL News. After his arrest, many undocumented parents in the community stopped sending their children to school out of fear that they would also be ambushed. Or take the agents who, in 2011, surrounded a Detroit elementary school to detain families inside and a year later arrested two parents who were dropping their children off at school.

These violations are perhaps a result of the priority established at ICE in the beginning of 2016 to remove immigrants who arrived in 2014. At that time, a surge of Central Americans had come to the U.S. and traveled to sanctuary cities out of concern for their children as they no longer felt that their country was safe, according to Nestor Alvarenga, the liaison for Montgomery County, Maryland’s Latino community. Because of the increased raids promised at the beginning of 2016, immigrants who arrived in 2014 were fearful of being deported. “Parents are afraid and we’ve had parent coordinators and principals notice students who haven’t come to school,” he told Bethesda Magazine on Jan. 11, 2016. “We’re trying to tell people to calm down.”

Thanks to the Equal Education Act, which prohibits discrimination based on nationality, race, or color, students cannot be denied an equal education because of their immigration status. For this reason, teachers and schools cannot ask for a student’s immigration status in an official capacity, and teachers do not share this personal information with anyone in the school or the county.

Megan Hamouch, an ESL teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, stressed that teachers will never require students to share their immigration status. “We’re not allowed to ask, but if they divulge the information, that’s fine,” Hamouch said.

Even if the school is aware of a student’s immigration status, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects student information. This law prevents schools from collaborating with ICE to apprehend undocumented students without criminal records.

  1. Contact with police

“I think the biggest misconception is that the community thinks that police have the right to question either their immigration status or ask any kind of personal information of country of origin,” Ricardo Campos, Education Program Manager at CASA de Maryland, said. “It's pretty intimidating knowing that a figure of authority is questioning you.”

If a law enforcement official requests someone’s immigration status, that person has the right to remain silent. If an immigration official asks to see someone’s identification papers and that person is not a U.S. citizen, however, he or she must present them as presenting falsified documents is a criminal act.

  1. Custody

Many of the same rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and residents who are apprehended by the police or ICE apply to undocumented individuals. All arrested people have the right to remain silent and to an attorney. In deportation cases, however, the government is not required to provide an attorney if an undocumented individual cannot afford one.

  1. Work or home

ICE officials can come to private residences, but they cannot enter without a warrant signed by a judge or permission from the resident. If they enter under these circumstances, they may arrest anyone inside who is an undocumented immigrant, even if their warrant only identifies specific people. Employers at private workplaces can give ICE officials permission to enter even if they do not have a warrant, however, and these officials also do not need a warrant to find an undocumented individual in any public location or workplace — although they may need one to actually arrest them.

At a time when the current president has considered deploying tens of thousands of National Guardsmen to the border, undocumented immigrants have become one of the most targeted groups in the U.S. Despite the United States of America being a nation of immigrants, the current administration will continue to try to put forth legislation aimed at sending refugees and undocumented immigrants back to their nations of origin, despite the danger many of them risked their lives to escape. Knowing one’s rights is the only way to be protected against the increase in violence that might arise within the next four years of Trump’s presidency.



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Laura Espinoza
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