ICE Home Raids: What you need to know to protect your Constitutional rights

Recently in the Sacramento and Stockton California area we have observed a sudden increase in immigration raids by Immigration Customs Enforcement.

Created in 2003, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws inside the United States. Since its inception, ICE has used several tactics to locate and apprehend those suspected of violating immigration laws. ICE tactics range from basic coordination with local criminal justice systems to identify illegal immigrants who have been arrested on criminal charges, to controversial swat-style raids at places of work and private homes. While the agency was criticized for its swat-style raids during the Bush administration, little scrutiny had been focused on the ICE home raids until recently.

On December 23, 2015, The Washington Post broke the news that the Department of Homeland Security was preparing for a series of mass scale raids that would target hundreds of families and unaccompanied minors who had entered the United States the previous year fleeing the violence in Central America. The article estimated that more than 100,000 families with adults and children would be targeted. Since then, media focus has shifted to ICE agents’ use of intimidation, coercion, threats, and sometimes even force to enter people’s homes. Some reports claim ICE has threatened individuals with charges of obstruction of justice if they refuse to open doors and search their home and even lying by claiming they were looking for another individual when they were in fact there to arrest the resident of the home.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects a person against unreasonable searches and seizure. A person’s home has the highest level of protection when it comes to government intrusions and consequently the government cannot enter without a proper search warrant. The Supreme Court has held that in the absence of consent from a resident-adult[1] or exigent circumstances[2], a search executed without a warrant issued by an impartial magistrate[3] has presumptively violated an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Generally, ICE agents are only in possession of an administrative arrest warrants issued by an immigration official, rather than a judicial or search warrant issued by an impartial judge. ICE’s Detention and Deportation Officer’s Field Manual states that warrants of deportation and removal are administrative and do not grant authority to breach doors[4]. Administrative warrants do not authorize agents to enter homes without consent because they are not issued by impartial magistrates[5]. Consequently, ICE officers must obtain informed consent prior to entering a private residence.

It is your right to refuse permission to enter your home unless agents can present an arrest warrant with your name on it. You can ask agents to put the warrant up to the peephole or to slide it under the door for you to inspect. If agents do not show you a warrant with your name on it, you should keep your door closed and refuse to interact with them. Even if agents present a warrant with your name, you still have the right to remain silent. You can say something like, “I wish to remain silent until I talk to an attorney.” Do not sign anything without first talking to a lawyer as you will likely be presented with an Order for Voluntary Departure.

[1] United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 171 (1974).
[2] Michigan v. Tyler, 436 U.S. 499, 509 (1978) (citing Warden v.Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 298-99 (1967)).
[3] Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967).
[4] “Revisions of Chapter 10 Title and Realignment of the Section, Titles of the Detention and Deportation Officer’s Field Manual,” August 21, 2008 (emphasis added); see also Chertoff Letter, June 2007 supra note 25. See generally See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541 (1963);
[5] Camara v. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523 (1963).

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