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Tips for Immigrant Communities to Stay Safe

Posted December 16, 2021
11:03 am

During the pandemic, the number of noncitizens detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) went down. When COVID case numbers go down, ICE might start to detain more noncitizens. Noncitizens should be careful during their daily routines to lower the risk of encountering ICE. Also, know your rights during a stop by ICE just in case.

All people living in the U.S. have rights protected by the Constitution, no matter their immigration status. One of those rights is freedom from unlawful searches. Any person, including a noncitizen, can refuse to open the door for an ICE officer if they do not have a valid search warrant. Without opening the door, a person should ask the ICE agent to slide their identification and the warrant under the door. Tips for how to figure out if a warrant is valid can be found at:

If the warrant is not valid, a person does not have to open the door for the ICE officer. Even if ICE has a valid warrant, a noncitizen can open the door but assert their constitutional rights by telling ICE, “I do not consent to this search.”

Another right that belongs to all people living in the United States is the right to remain silent if arrested. A person does not have to give any information about their immigration status or where they were born. If an officer asks other questions, a person may tell the officer, “I choose to remain silent and want an attorney.”

Any encounter with ICE is stressful. Many people forget their rights in the moment. By remembering just a few of these tips, a person may have a better chance of release from jail and avoiding deportation. Try not to resist a pat-down search or run away. Ask the officer, “Am I free to go?” before walking away.

If a noncitizen is detained, they have the right to:

  • NOT sign anything they do not understand, especially if it is not written in a language they speak;
  • remain silent; and
  • request an attorney.

Finally, noncitizens should keep copies of important documents (birth certificate, passport, immigration paperwork) for all members of their family in a safe place. Also, the noncitizen should tell a friend or family member who does not live with them where to find the documents or give them a copy.

Written by Allison Kreiner

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 37, Issue 1, in Fall 2021. See full issue at this link: “The Alert” – Volume 37, Issue 1 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (

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