Preparing for Potential Encounters with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents

February 26, 2020
Beata Leja

In an effort to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” the federal government recently announced it will deploy enhanced law enforcement tactical units, essentially “SWAT teams,” to help round up undocumented immigrants. The units are being sent to Chicago, New York and other major U.S. cities to back up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducting immigration arrests. Although ostensibly sent to support ICE officers in routine immigration arrests, tactical unit members in the past have been used in high-risk operations at the U.S. border. The government anticipates that approximately 100 officers will work with ICE between February and May.

In order to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees from deportation, cities called sanctuary cities have passed laws prohibiting local police departments from working with ICE. In light of the crackdown, the Chicago-based National Immigrant justice Center (NIJC) recommends ways in which immigrants can deal with situations when confronted by ICE. They include:

1) Create a safety plan in advance.

  •  – Identify an emergency contact and memorize the contact’s phone number;
  •  – Provide your child’s school or day care with the emergency contact and phone number and authorize the emergency contact to pick up the child from school;
  •  – Authorize the emergency contact to make medical and legal decisions concerning your child;
  •  – Keep passports, proofs of physical presence in the U.S. and financial information in a safe location while authorizing emergency contacts to access them;

2) Obey traffic and criminal laws and carry a valid state ID and/or work permit. Don’t carry false or fraudulent documents that do not correspond to your identity.

3) Exercise your rights during an enforcement action;

  •  – Traffic Stops. If pulled over for a traffic stop, ask whether the officer is from the local police department or from immigration. If an ICE agent or from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, you are not required to answer any questions or provide any documentation before speaking with a lawyer;
  •  – Home Visits. If an officer knocks on your door, do not open it. Officers must have a warrant signed by a judge to enter a home while ICE warrants are not signed by judges;
  •  – You can remain silent or not answer any questions or show any documents to an immigration officer. Ask to speak with a lawyer.

4) Emergency Support is available 24 hours a day. Individuals can call the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Family support Hotline at 1-855-HELP-MY-FAMILY (I-855-435-7693). The hot line is available 24 hours a day in English, Spanish, Korean and Polish. Volunteers are able to provide legal and social services referrals and basic legal rights information. For additional resources, visit:

5) Immigration Legal Representation is also available for free to Chicago residents from the National Immigration Justice Center through the City of Chicago Legal Protection Fund. Immigrants outside Chicago can obtain low-cost legal consultations and representation from the NIJC by calling 312-660-1370 or by e-mailing to make an appointment.

If you have questions or need more information about your immigration situation or how to respond to encounters with ICE, please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2023 Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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