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Know Your Rights

Regardless of your immigration status, you have certain rights. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers must have a search warrant signed by a federal judge if they want to enter your home. If officers knock on your door, you do not have to open it. Ask if they have a warrant. If they have one, they can slide the warrant under your door or show it to you through a window.

Look at the warrant carefully. It should list all of the following:

  • The United States District Court for the district in which your home is located

  • Your address

  • The name of the person they are looking for

  • The judge’s name and signature

  • The dates the warrant is effective

Only after making sure it has all this information should you allow them to enter. If the officer does not have such a warrant, you do not have to open your door.

The officer could have an ICE warrant, but that is not the same as a search warrant. An ICE warrant is not signed by a judge. An ICE warrant allows ICE officers to arrest someone who is unlawfully in the U.S. However, an ICE warrant does not allow officers to enter private places, like a home.

If you are stopped by a border patrol or ICE officer, you do not have to answer questions about your immigration status. You can explain your status to the officer if you want to, but you may want to speak with a lawyer first.

Do not sign any papers officers give you if you do not understand them. You may be giving up your rights. You have a right to a hearing in front of an immigration judge. You also have the right to call your country's consulate or to have the police tell your consulate that you are arrested.

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions or signing any papers. Generally, you have the right to call a lawyer if you are detained. One exception to this right is if an immigration officer is detaining and deporting you using the expedited removal process. To learn more about this, read the “Expedited Removals” section of Inadmissibility, Deportation, and Bars to Reentry.

You have the right to have a lawyer with you at any hearing in front of an immigration judge. You do not have the right to a court-appointed lawyer. You must find your own lawyer. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find immigration lawyers and legal services near you.

The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center offers resources that could help you and your family prepare for interactions with immigration agents.

Be Prepared: Make an Emergency Plan

If someone in your family is at risk of deportation, your family should make an emergency plan.

Carry Identification

If possible, you should carry a legal form of identification issued in the U.S. by the federal or state government. Examples are a driver's license, state ID card, Permanent Resident Card, employment authorization card, or school ID card. It is illegal to carry identification that is false or belongs to another person. Federal law states that Legal Permanent Residents must carry their resident cards with them at all times.

Emergency Contacts

Everyone in your family should carry the phone number of an immigration attorney who can help with deportation cases or the phone number of a local community agency that can help you if you are detained. If your children are U.S. citizens, you should get passports for them in case they need to travel outside the U.S.

Emergency Care for Children

Think about what will happen to your children if you are detained. You should let your children's school know who has your permission to pick up your children from school. Consider giving a Power of Attorney document to a person whom you trust. A Power of Attorney gives this person legal authority to care for your children if you are detained or deported. In Michigan, these Powers of Attorney are valid for up to six months. It is best if the person receiving this legal authority has legal status, but it is not necessary. A Power of Attorney can be signed in detention centers, if necessary.

Financial Plan

If you have a bank account, car, house, or other financial assets, you should contact a lawyer about preparing a Power of Attorney that allows a relative or trusted friend to have authority to manage your assets if you are detained. It is best if the person receiving this legal authority has legal status, but it is not necessary. It is not recommended to pay a "notario" or someone who is not a lawyer for these services.

Immigration Papers

A relative should keep copies of all your important immigration papers, such as notices from the Immigration office or the Immigration court.

Finding a Detained Friend or Relative

For information about finding a friend or relative who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), read Detention and Deportation.

Call an immigration lawyer to find out whether humanitarian or other legal relief may be available for your detained friend or relative. To get a referral to an immigration lawyer, contact the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), or visit the American Immigration Lawyers Association website for more information.

The majority of this information was provided by Farmworker Legal Services (FLS). FLS is a legal aid office with lawyers and other legal staff who provide free legal assistance and referrals to migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout Michigan.